The one thing you should see this week

The one thing you should see this week

After a successful run in 2009, Emergence is back for the National Ballet's fall mixed program (Image: Cylla von Tiedemann/National Ballet of Canada) 

This week’s pick: Crystal Pite’s Emergence

A shuddering mass of sinewy bodies skittered its way across the stage, the bare-chested men in low-slung pants, the women in tight black bodices—all tattooed, all predatory, all seemingly trying to decide between seduction and supper. Hive mentality had never looked so good.

Crystal Pite topped the wish list when Karen Kain was commissioning a showcase of new works by up-and-coming choreographers for the National Ballet’s aptly named Innovation program in 2009. (Kain had been dying to work with the Vancouver-based phenom since taking over as the ballet’s artistic director in 2005.) Of course, “up-and-coming” was a bit of a misnomer in this case; Pite had been choreographing professionally for years, getting her start at Ballet British Columbia at the age of 19. She had since gone on to create works for her own company, Kidd Pivot, as well as Netherlands Dance Theatre 1, Ballett Frankfurt, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal and many more. Though Pite had a hardcore fan base in Toronto, the National Ballet gig got her name out to a new—and sizable—audience.

Once she signed on to Innovation, Pite had just 18 days in which to create a 28-minute piece. Naturally, she decided to take on a massive cast of 38 dancers. She left the women en pointe and used the Four Seasons Centre’s stage—a space well accustomed to impressive displays—to full effect, getting her humming, thrumming cast to dart and dash en masse. A skin-crawling soundtrack by frequent collaborator Owen Belton set a wonderfully deranged, droning tone. The crowd wildly leapt to its feet when Emergence wrapped. Pite’s sexy, sinister work was a perfect example—in true colony fashion—of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s now back as part of the National Ballet’s fall mixed program, so let’s not forget about the two other tremendous pieces on offer. Another daredevil joins Pite at 145 Queen Street West: British dance darling Wayne McGregor—a former club kid, Harry Potter collaborator and research fellow in Cambridge’s experimental psych department—sets his rapturously received 2006 work, Chroma, to music by the White Stripes. George Balanchine’s elegant 1934 piece, Serenade—revolutionary for its confident lack of narrative—rounds out the evening.

The details: Nov. 24 to 28. $24–$150. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., 416-363-6671, national.ballet.ca.