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Crystal Pite: Flight Pattern is my way of coping with the world at the moment

The Canadian choreographer's new work for The Royal Ballet addresses the refugee crisis.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

9 March 2017 at 3.29pm | 21 Comments

Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite explains how her new work, Flight Pattern, her first for The Royal Ballet, began with a choice of music: Górecki’s haunting ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’.

With its themes of motherhood and separation of families as a result of war, the symphony is often associated with the Holocaust, although the composer denied this association. In 2017, however, these themes take on a new meaning in the context of the refugee crisis; a subject Pite feels unable to ignore.

'I feel that… this creation is my way of coping with the world at the moment,' she explains.

'As I’ve been working on the piece I feel a sense of being overwhelmed and being crushed or pressurized by the subject. I wonder if I have the capacity to manage something so overwhelming; but it’s through dance, only through dance, that I have any hope of speaking clearly and truthfully about something that I care so deeply about.'

The work, Pite's first for The Royal Ballet, explores the displacement of millions of refugees across the world, using a cast of 36 dancers to portray a large-scale portrait before zooming in to focus on individual, human relationships.

'One of the things I love about working in theatre is that collaborative aspect,' she says, 'the feeling of building something together that is bigger than all of us.'

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The Human Seasons / After the Rain / Flight Pattern runs 16–24 March 2017. Tickets are still available.

The mixed programme is staged with generous philanthropic support from the Taylor Family Foundation.
Flight Pattern is staged with generous philanthropic support from Richard and Delia Baker and Sue Butcher. After the Rain is staged with generous philanthropic support from Kenneth and Susan Green.

This article has 21 comments

  1. Nick Byrne responded on 9 March 2017 at 7:21pm Reply

    Wow - amazing! I think it's going to be handkerchiefs at the ready though...

  2. penelope simpson responded on 11 March 2017 at 7:36pm Reply

    Oh, P-lease. What a load of psychobabble. Coping with the world - how does she think other mere mortals without her extreme sensitivities manage to get out of bed?????

    • Teresa Guerreiro responded on 13 March 2017 at 9:55pm

      She said that's HER way of coping with the world. You're entitled to yours. She's entitled to her coping mechanisms. You're entitled to get out of bed any way you like. Or not. She's not trying to imposed anything on you.

    • Channa Connolly responded on 14 March 2017 at 2:59am

      If only MORE people were extremely sensitive like Crystal. People who compartmentalize and disassociate from the atrocities behind the refugee crisis so that they can go on with their privileged day-to-day life certainly aren't doing anything to improve the plight of humanity.

    • Cat responded on 14 March 2017 at 9:41pm

      Spot on!

  3. Penelope Simpson responded on 11 March 2017 at 10:22pm Reply

    Possibly, but a little over the top her remark about coping with the world. Some of us do manage to get by!

  4. Anthony Brooks responded on 12 March 2017 at 3:19pm Reply

    Seeing Crystal Pite's choreography for the first time this week at the ROH and I think it will be one of the highlights of 2017

  5. Good to see Pite and the Royal making the effort to make dance part of the fabric of an important political humanitarian crisis. Would that the rest of the UK, and the US, could get on her wave length with a questioning look at real problems.

  6. Grace Salez responded on 13 March 2017 at 6:49pm Reply

    To address the subject of the plight of refugees requires a choreographer who is informed about the crisis and who has the sensitivity to bring this timely issue to the stage via dance. I believe Pite will do justice to this sensitive subject matter and bring to the audience a moving experience of what being adrift and lost might feel like for a refugee. Thank you Royal Ballet for supporting Pite’s vision for this project and good luck to all involved. Unfortunately London is not next door, but I look forward to possible video documentation &/or a film.

  7. Ane Ramløse responded on 14 March 2017 at 7:07am Reply

    @ Penelope :The saddest most beautiful music for the saddest situation - put into art. At least Pite is doing something by moving us - where as the majority of us just complain about ridiculous things and go shopping.

    • penelope simpson responded on 14 March 2017 at 8:03pm

      No, I don't Just because people don't spend their life emoting about something in the most preposterously OTT terms, doesn't mean they don't care deeply about the issues the world faces today. I just find Ms Pite's statement offensive - as if she is the only person in the world having to cope with lifes issues.

  8. penelope simpson responded on 14 March 2017 at 8:05pm Reply

    Most of us find our coping mechanisms are rooted in the day to day business of working for a living and caring for our families. Ms. Pite is fortunate indeed that she is funded in her work of 'coping.'

    • Leanna Brodie responded on 15 March 2017 at 4:54pm

      I hear your frustration with what sounds like artsy self-indulgence and ego, but I think Crystal Pite is actually coming from the opposite place. For a long time, artists (mostly male) would claim a kind of moral and spiritual authority: they would tell us what to feel and what to think. Arthur Miller would tell us why McCarthyism was bad through THE CRUCIBLE; for Byron, the artist was the lonely genius on the mountaintop, telling us poor mortals about the nature of love and life. Crystal Pite, OTOH, says that her work is collaborative, and that it is her way of processing the world... which is much more humble than positioning it as her grand statement about some social ill, and hers alone. The other factor is, she's really awfully good at what she does, so if she feels something deeply, we in the audience are likely to experience something remarkable. And THAT'S what she gets funded for. Cheers!

  9. Gary responded on 17 March 2017 at 12:48am Reply

    Wow! Crystal Pite has excelled, what a rare and beautiful talent and what an extraordinary statement so magnificently brought to life by the ROH. Mesmerising from the first note to the very last.

    @Penelope Simpson - if you can spare the time, do try to obtain a ticket for this production. Viewed from any seat in the house this is an extraordinary, thought provoking and moving piece; powerful enough to move the coldest and most judgemental of hearts.

  10. Colin Pearson responded on 17 March 2017 at 7:46am Reply

    Saw the premiere last night and this is wonderfully evocative of flight in all forms with strong movement and dance. Holocaust? Refugees of all kinds? Starlings? One can read all these. The audience applause suggests this is going to be a popular addition to the Royal Ballet repertoire and it is certainly a worthwhile one. Well done to Crystal Pite and the Royal Ballet for the commission. Great band, soprano and music performance as always. Part of a wonderful evening of dance with the RB in top form.

  11. Colin Pearson responded on 17 March 2017 at 8:18am Reply

    And tickets for remaining performances selling fast....

  12. Nick Byrne responded on 17 March 2017 at 9:15am Reply

    Saw it last night. A GENUINE (note!!!) and heartfelt choreographic statement and expression. Truly wonderful. Sometimes overwhelming and sometimes sparse. Totall commitment and engagement from dancers. An amazing addition to repertoire- a privilege to have seen it.

  13. Ross Roberts responded on 18 March 2017 at 1:46am Reply

    A very impressive Royal Ballet debut which compares with the other stunning productions we have seen at Sadler's Wells and at last year's Edinburgh International Festival. I can't wait for my next new Crystal Pite experience.

  14. Clare O responded on 18 March 2017 at 10:26pm Reply

    Such a privilege to see flight pattern. Thank you. Pite has moved me. Those of us who continue to live our everyday lives can do something. How much did you pay for your seat to see flight pattern? Maybe donate that amount to a charity helping refugees. CAFOD is a good one.

  15. Richard sullivan responded on 21 March 2017 at 3:18am Reply

    I'm offended by reference to the artist as privileged and removed. Ms. Pite worked long and hard for many years with little remuneration, like most dancers. That she chooses to be relevant, contemporary and critical is art at its highest function - the provocation of new perspectives and ideas. Remember those who chose to make music to recall and demonstrate their humanity as they awaited death in the concentration camps.

  16. Terry Abbott responded on 17 August 2017 at 10:51pm Reply

    I have loved Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs since I heard it played in an Anglican church at Easter in 1997. I wish I had seen this ballet. Crystal Pite on Radio 4 talking about Flight Pattern caught my imagination. Being creative is a positive energy in a troubled world and can heal a troubled mind. If Crystal Pite's way of coping with the world creates such beauty and emotion as Flight Pattern then bring it on. What vision and talent!

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