Emily Molnar, Crystal Pite - Eisteinian Space & TimeThursday, May 01, 2008
It has taken 65 years for my concept of space and time to change, even after having read here and there about Einsteinian time and space. It all suddenly changed for me some five years ago when Vancouver contemporary dancers Emily Molnar and Crystal Pite discussed space, time and movement in my studio.
The shortest definition of relativistic movement I have ever heard came from Molnar (35) who said, “Movement is the observer.” This means that from a position of rest we the observers can discern the movement of a dancer on stage. Of time Pite (37) said, “The ephemeral of dance exists only in the present movement. We are left with traces of movements that are gone as they are being created. As we carve space with our bodies they leave a ghost, the trail which affects our future moves and informs the observer of our past moves.” I then understood that those past moves are much like the contrails that high-flying jets leave in the sky.
In 1996 I photographed Crystal Pite who was leaving Ballet BC for William Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet. I had seen her Ballet BC farewell performance of her own work, Moving Day. I was amazed by her elegance and style but immediately saddened that I might not to see her dance again. In 1998 I photographed Emily Molnar who returned from the Frankfurt Ballet to assist John Alleyne’s direction of Ballet BC. Fortunately for us all Alleyne made her dance, too. In between, Pite and Molnar met and danced for two years in Frankfurt. Pite returned to Vancouver 6 years ago where she directs Kidd Pivot, her own dance company.
Rebecca, my precocious 10 year-old granddaughter with whom I attend as many ballet and modern dance performances as we can, may be well ahead of her lumbering grandfather. She has declared to me that her favourite Vancouver dancers are Crystal and Emily. We agree.
It was with Rebecca that I saw Pite do part of her full-length ballet for the Frankfurt Ballet called Field Fiction. On stage, assisted by the excellent Cori Caulfield, and dressed in a stylized military uniform she removed her Prussian type spiked helmet and inserted her head into a noose that hung from the ceiling. On her tiptoes she did an exquisite and alternately horrific interpretation of a man hanging. I can only imagine what the scope of the silence that followed this performance must have been when it premiered in Frankfurt. Behind me was Sylvain Senez, Ballet BC’s Ballet master whispered in my ear, “Crystal is the future of dance in Vancouver.”
When Molnar (she is striking at 5 ft 11in) entered my studio for her first picture in 1998 she quietly sat in a corner in a fetal position for 10 minutes before facing my camera. Since then, thanks to Molnar, Pite and the performances of some of William Forsythe’s works by Ballet BC I have come not only to appreciate why Forsythe’s choreography and his company were rated about best in the world but also why Molnar and Pite talk physics. Asked on how he pushes the boundaries of the form of dance Forsythe once said, “I don’t think so much of the body when we are doing this. We are thinking about ‘the thinking body’ or we’re trying to understand how the body thinks about its own presence.” Or the way the ever-succinct Molnar put it to me, “Dance requires the entire body and the mind.”
Molnar has her own company, Emily Molnar Dance. When possible I attend whatever performance of hers I can find. More often than not she is busy choreographing for companies in Europe and New York. I sometimes catch her rehearsing the senior dancers at Arts Umbrella on Saturdays. Her principal role performances for several of John Alleyne’s full-length works including The Faerie Queen and Scheherazade linger in my memory. On the rehearsal of the latter Rebecca first noticed her and insisted on meeting her. It was in Molnar’s solo performance of Speak choreographed for her by Margie Gillis that I finally fell hard for her. I had to photograph Molnar for a local publication and she offered to go through the whole performance (just for me!) so I could pick a dance move for the photograph. In such close proximity I learned how strenuous dance really is no matter how effortless a dancer makes it seem to be. I now sit in the front row for dance performances, as part of the rewards of watching dance is to be able to hear the dancers breathe. In retrospect when I think of Molnar and Speak and watching her long limbs I smile remembering what Pite says of her, “There is always this extreme quality of her movement. The extreme doesn’t come from her extremities, although the result is extreme. The extremity is internally motivated. The motivation comes from her core.”
For me watching Pite or Molnar dance (they have yet to dance together in Vancouver) puts other dancers with them at a disadvantage. Pite and Molnar stand out and the others just fade much in the same way as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s dancers used to disappear for me when I watched Evelyn Hart dance.
The uniqueness of Pite’s and Molnar’s style is perhaps best explained by Molnar’s take on Pite. "She is an artist of the highest caliber. She is defining dance in the future. She has a movement understanding that is absolutely three-dimensional. You know it’s Crystal when she dances, whether you see her face or not. There is uniqueness, creativity and a sense of humour in her statements. There is a grounded articulation in her physicality. There is no one like Crystal, and what that is, is still evolving." While Crystal’s definition of Molnar involves lots of physics I can safely say that Sylvain Senez was only half right. The future of dance in Vancouver is not only Crystal Pite but Emily Molnar, too.
It is a special delight when either Molnar or Pite appear in one of my favourite Vancouver dance programs, Dances for a Small Stage . The restraints of a small stage are a problem when you consider that both Pite and Molnar agree that when you, for example, throw an arm out, the distance cast is infinite. For a while, I selfishly hope, that their movements do not exceed beyond the borders of our fair and doubly lucky Vancouver.