Opera ballet

Watch the Paris Opera Ballet perform the work of this Vancouver choreographer, without traveling to France

Body and Soul, choreographed by Order of Canada nominee Crystal Pite, is available to stream via Digidance this month

Acclaimed Vancouver choreographer Crystal Pite’s Body and soul was first presented on stage by the Paris Opera Ballet in November 2019, Vancouver dance fans should have boarded a flight to the French capital to catch the performance, which, at the time, was reserved only for individual hearings at the famous Palace Garnier.

That should change this month. Canadians will soon be able to experience this captivating spectacle without having to leave their sofas, let alone board a plane.

Body and soul will be available online from February 17 to 23 thanks to the all-new streaming platform Digidance, Vancouver-based nonprofit DanceHouse announced this week. The online release marks the Canadian premiere of Pite’s latest film with the Paris Opera Ballet, while Canadians will become the first international audiences to discover Body and soul since its world premiere in Paris.

Digidance is a new initiative formed in response to covid-19 by four of the nation’s hottest dance presenters: Vancouver’s DanceHouse, harbor front Toronto Centre, the National Arts Center in Ottawa and the Center dance Dance. It aims to bring “outstanding and comprehensive Canadian and international dance content online” to audiences from coast to coast.

“Dance, perhaps more than other disciplines, faces an uphill battle with the challenges presented by covid-19. Yet despite the obstacles, the pandemic has also acted as a powerful catalyst for change born of necessity. Digidance was formed out of such a need – to contribute to the sustainability and longevity of dance in Canada,” said Jim Smith, Digidance partner and artistic and executive director of DanceHouse.

“We are extremely grateful and proud to officially launch Digidance with the extraordinary work of Crystal, Body and soul. We look forward to sharing many more performances with our audiences, while building a rich dance legacy in Canada — and abroad — for future generations.

‘[E]peak protest, deep personal struggle and collective survival’

body and soul is The second complete creation of Pite for the famous French company, after the highly acclaimed 2016 The cannon of the seasons. Filmed live during Body and soulworld premiere in 2019 at Palace Garnier, the Canadian film’s premiere represents another major notch in Pite’s belt over the past few months. The choreographer behind Vancouver-based Kidd Pivot was appointed to the Order of Canada in November 2020. Pite is a former member of Ballet British Columbia and William Forsythe’s ballet Frankfurt, who made her professional choreographic debut with Ballet BC in 1990.

In the statement, Pite acknowledged that while covid-19 “brought profound challenges to artists, it also encouraged all kinds of innovation and creativity in our industry.”

She continued: “I am comforted to know that Digidance offers people the opportunity to experience dance on screen. The creation of Body and soul was an important chapter in my creative life. It was an honor to work with the sublime dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, and an exciting challenge to confront the history and possibilities of the institution itself. I’m so happy to be able to share Body and soul with my fellow Canadians.

Pites Body and soul has 36 dancers and is presented in three distinct parts. It begins with a voice-over text that describes, “in purely physical terms, a scene of conflict between two individuals,” according to the release. “The work expresses Pite’s ongoing fascination with conflict, connectedness, and the embodiment of the human spirit.”

Throughout the show, the meaning of the piece shifts and deepens, with the perceived conflict generating tension between individuals, between groups, and even between species. “The mastery of the Paris Opera Ballet as an ensemble is evident in Pite’s intricate choreographic swarms; the individual dancers are virtuoso in breathtaking solos and duets,” the statement read. “The dancers evoke scenes of epic protest, deep personal struggle and collective survival.

Body and soul is a portrait of the human condition that is timeless, expansive, and heartbreakingly intimate.”

The 85-minute feature was produced by the Paris Opera Ballet, directed by Tommy Pascal, and is presented with English and French subtitles. Prior to the streaming performance, viewers will be treated to a 15-minute pre-recorded interview with Pite and his creative team Kidd Pivot, all of whom are credited with artistic contributions to Body and soul.

Body and soul: Choreographed by Crystal Pite, performed by the Paris Opera Ballet

When: From Wednesday 17 February to Tuesday 23 February

Or: Stream on dancehouse.ca (Link available for seven days, stream in Canada only)

Cost: Starting at $15, plus applicable taxes