A BLOG ABOUT THE LOCAL/GLOBAL INTERFACES OF AUDIENCE AND EVENT.
My colleague Rob Kitsos's latest work, a duet created with and for dancers Jane Osborne and Kim Stevenson (both of them former students of Rob's), debuted last night at the Roundhouse as part of this year's Vancouver International Dance Festival. Death and Flying combines two of Rob's latest research interests: text and movement; and embodied ethnography. To this end, the piece takes its cue from interviews with Osborne and Stevenson about memories of their families, and specifically objects and mementoes from their families that have special meaning for them (both women have lost their fathers). We hear excerpts from these interviews in voiceover, which are remixed, looped and occasionally distorted as part of the overall score by composer and sound designer Elliot Vaughn, and which the dancers also break off their movements to lipsynch to at different moments.
However, the piece actually begins with a recording of a poem by Maximilian Heinegg, about the makeshift will that his parents would always make whenever they took a plane trip together, and how their improvisatory bequeathing of their worldly goods prompts a reflection on his relationship with them, and with his siblings. Osborne and Stevenson, dressed in simple t-shirts and jeans, enter from opposite sides of the stage, meet in the middle, and then launch themselves into a series of micro-gestures, the pointing of a finger, the roll of a shoulder, or the cutting through air of a hand creating separate embodied pathways for each dancer that mirror the twin jet streams of air billowing from behind the animated air plane that traverses the screen behind them (the beguiling animations, including ink-outlined avatars of Osborne and Stevenson, that play throughout the piece are by another former student of Rob's whose name I didn't catch).
Stevenson, in her recorded reflections, more than once uses the word "resemblance" when talking about her memories of her deceased father (a former RCMP officer). In the specific phraseology of her speech the word initially struck me as an odd choice, but upon reflection it now seems an apt way of describing a kinaesthetic process of re-membering, by which the cherished tics or traits of a loved-one become physicalized in one's own body. The way we make a bed or set a table, the way we lay out a suit to be pressed or line up papers on a desk: if, as many cognitive theorists have suggested, our first and most immediate way of learning and knowing is through sensori-motor observation rather than language, then it makes sense that over our lifetimes we will have inherited and physically incorporated a storehouse of kinetic memories from our parents. In Rob's choreography these play out as felt pathways to puzzle through and decipher, often beginning with a simple isolation of a single part of the body or a quotidian gesture (like the laying of hands on an invisible countertop) that then triggers an extended line of movement that Osborne and Stevenson, sometimes individually and sometimes together, follow instinctively but also with halting deliberation, every turn in one direction or step backwards or drop to the floor reminding me of the way one feels for the light switch in the darkened room of a house to which one has returned after some time away.
Two moments in particular stood out for me from last night's performance. The first is a sequence of gestures that Osborne and Stevenson perform in unison centre stage, but facing at a diagonal from each other, alternately pivoting away from and towards each other as they cycle through a vertical hail, a horizontal reach, a hip bend, a buckle of one knee, a shoulder roll, and so on. It's a repertoire of movements at once so common and yet here, placed in quasi-canon by virtue of the performers' different facings, likewise so uniquely individual; as such it powerfully encapsulated for me how one's individual genealogy of gestures might, over time, get shared with and distributed to other kinship networks--such as, in this case, one's dance family (and here I am reminded of the fact that Rob and Jane and Kim have a working relationship that dates back to 2009's Wake, and also of some of the ideas that Justine A. Chambers is working through in her Family Dinner: A Lexicon).
The second memorable moment came near the end when Osborne and Stevenson, again working in unison, engage in a series of super fast and barely perceptible stutter steps and sideways jerkings. Maybe it was because of the preceding voiceover from Osborne, about a gift of digitized Super-8 footage of her parents that she received from her brother, or maybe I was influenced by the evocative image by David Cooper included in the program, but the sequence reminded me of the glitches or unexpected jumps in an old video recording, or of the blur of motion stilled in a photograph. Either way it perfectly captured for me the ideas of embodied or kinetic memory that Rob is playing with in this piece: some recollected actions we can call on at specific moments for comfort or solace, and some overtake us, unbidden, and convulse us with their suddenness and their force.
Indulgent and whimsical as it is, veteran dance artist Rob Kitsos’s duet with his 11-year-old daughter, Beatrice, Sick Fish, offers some whacked-out conceptual relief to the program. An ode to the way dark and light meld in the world of child’s play, it’s set again projections of happy-creepy kids’ drawings and finds the adult Kitsos moving herky-jerkily and mouthing retro sound bites from Lucas Van Lenten’s The Avalanches-like score.
Following the irrational and random whims of a kid’s mind, it’s definitely not literal in the least—and about as unexpected as those dancers in the treetops.
PERFORMANCE, PLACE, AND POLITICS: Peter Dickenson
THURSDAY, JULY 14, 2016
Sick Fish, by my colleague Rob Kitsos, is a charming duet that he dances with his daughter Beatrice, who has an abundance of natural stage presence. Set to an original sound composition by Lucas Van Lenton, and accompanied by digital projections of drawings that I gather were made by Beatrice and her brother Gabriel, the piece is about the playful and deeply mysterious world of children's dreams. It begins with Beatrice wandering the stage, glimpsing something off in the distance, something that may in fact be playing across the blankness of the upstage screen, but that apparently only she can see. Nevertheless, she tries to point out what she is seeing to her father when he joins her on stage, and later with his dancing--which begins with a simple repeated pull of his arms through space, as if gathering together the dark matter of his child's imagination--Rob will unleash a torrent of fantastical embodied shapes and projected images for us to revel in. The piece also incorporates lipsynching, a technique Kitsos has used in past work (for example, Barego); the uncanny alignment of mimed speech to the snatches of dialogue we hear in Van Lenton's score is another kind of aural kinesis that complements the physical movement. But it is young Beatrice who steals the show on this front with her own lipsynching to a song (sung by her younger self?) that gives us the title to the piece--and that in its mixing of the logically bizarre and the refreshingly unsentimental could only have come from a child's unconscious.
by Janet Smith
The Georgia Straight
Posted on December 15, 2015
In the darkened Studio T at SFU Woodward’s, projections of an abstracted Berlin cityscape are melting down from four screens and across the floor to where we’re sitting, like a slow-moving flood. At other points, media designer Remy Siu conjures a galaxy of moving stars throughout the space, and a warping, perspective-stumping grid on the floor.
This is the high-tech, immersive world the dancers in choreographer Rob Kitsos’s new Saudade will inhabit. And this is also the new frontier of dance being explored in the campus’s interdisciplinary School for the Contemporary Arts. Kitsos’s research project was built, from the beginning, with Siu, composer Nancy Tam, and dramaturgist DD Kugler, so its music, movement, and multimedia worlds are seamlessly integrated.
“I love that technology can enhance our kinesthetic response to movement,” Kitsos, an associate professor in the School for the Contemporary Arts, says, sitting in the theatre and looking down at the imagery. Speaking of the multimedia projections, he adds: “They’re interactive and responsive, shifting things on the floor with the dancers and projecting things on their bodies.”
Kitsos explains Saudade (the Portuguese word for wishful, melancholic longing) was inspired by two iconic 1980s films: Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Kitsos was interested in the visual “aura” they both had and in the idea of the nonhuman characters—angels in the former film, replicants in the latter—who yearn for human experience.
As Kitsos writes in his program notes, “Both films investigate—through textures, sprawling landscapes, duration of light—a timeless longing.” From that inspiration he started immediately to build the piece with the other interdisciplinary artists.
It’s a way of working that strongly reflects the approach of the new interdisciplinary curriculum at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, where Kitsos sits as undergraduate chair. It’s a program where musicians, filmmakers, dancers, visual artists, and theatre artists sit side by side in class, forming relationships and bouncing ideas off one another.
Describing the curriculum’s core subjects, Kitsos explains, “Everyone takes composition, for example. Musicians, dancers: and they all take it.
“So I feel my research and my piece reflect the philosophy of the school,” continues Kitsos, whose five dancers include several from the program. “In the first year you’re creating those relationships—you’re meeting a composer and a filmmaker. And often they become collectives when they graduate.”
The drive to mash forms and incorporate immersive multimedia also reflects what’s happening in contemporary performance, he adds. “It’s Crystal Pite, Robert Lepage—those kinds of influences,” he says. “And technology has become more user-friendly. When I’m sitting here, I can say, ‘Can we try that?’ and typically ‘that’ would have taken five hours in the studio before. And now, on a laptop, we can compose on the spot.”
Many of the artists involved in Saudade will still be creating “on the spot” when the piece is performed. Siu can manipulate his imagery and make it respond to dancers’ movement, while composer Tam says she has sound files she can trigger during the show, while performing on an analogue synthesizer and other instruments. The sound, like the projected imagery, surrounds the viewers in the studio, with speakers mounted around the space.
The resulting piece, Kitsos says, feels very cinematic, collagelike, and immersive. Film fans will recognize some visual references to the source material, including those images of Berlin from Wenders’s art-house romantic fantasy, and mechanical nods to the replicants of Scott’s dystopian sci-fi-noir. Amid all this, the dancers are lit in glowing, golden hues. Two move flowingly and gracefully, like the angels they represent, while you recognize the two Blade Runner–inspired replicants by their rigid, robotic body language. In the middle of them all is a human character—the one they all watch curiously, yearning to experience life as she does.
“What the angels were wanting in Wings of Desire and what the replicants were longing for in Blade Runner was more life,” Kitsos says. “So it becomes an investigation of what it means to be human.”
It also becomes an investigation of what humans can achieve when given cutting-edge tools and an open, collaborative framework.
Saudade is at SFU Woodward’s in the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts from Thursday to Saturday (December 17 to 19).
Vancity Buzz: Dec 30th 2015
Saudade is a curious word. It means ‘a wishful longing for completeness or wholeness, the yearning for the return of that now gone, a desire for presence as opposed to absence.’ Saudade captures the beautiful vulnerability of living as we search for meaning and connection.
Choreographed by Rob Kitsos, Saudade, as part of SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs and the SFU School for the Contemporary Arts, was an interdisciplinary work rooted in Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
The rich projection media in Saudade, created by Remy Siu, filled the space with depth and a visual expression of time as the dancers moved four mobile screens through the space in a simple choreography. With the pleasant overload of multiple images being projected on the screens, the floor, and the back wall, Studio T was transformed into an impossible space that emphasized and exaggerated the dancer’s virtuosity.
The wide eyed and tactful physicality of Alexa Mardon, and the continuous support of Cody Cox, Michael Kong, Felicia Lau, and Erika Mitsuhashi illuminated the space just as much as the vibrant projections. As Saudade began, Mardon entered the space and followed a projected pathway of light. Her determination and specificity was immediately recognizable as the human tendency to follow, yet spoke to our constant curiosity of our surroundings and our yearning to explore.
Kitsos created a unique environment that forced the audience to choose their own adventure; split between the intense media, the sounds, the texts, and the dancers’ compelling performance, there was always something to watch. The choreographed moments of sensitive stillness heightened the audience’s awareness of the surrounding media, yet never gave the viewer a break. While refusing to give a sensory break, Saudade continued on a simple trajectory where each moment was a climax in an attempt to connect the infinite to the finite; the human to the technology; reality to one’s desires.
The engaging dynamic Kitsos shaped between the five dancers where opposing physical qualities was met with their contrasting costumes and roles. Two dancers wearing white (Cox and Mitsuhashi) moved with fluidity and softness; their limbs echoed through the space and carved through the projections. Opposing this, there were two dancers wearing black (Kong and Lau) who used a sharp and angular dynamic to express the concreteness of the body and the room.
Throughout the hour-long work, the two opposing forces were never in conflict or trying to dominate one another. Instead, Mardon’s navigation between the two couples highlighted the individual’s search for completeness and the internal struggle between the past, present, and future.
Going in with no knowledge of Wender’s Wings of Desire or Scott’s Blade Runner many of the references felt lost; however, the beautiful voice over speaking of the incomprehensible nature of infinity tied the work together. The media bridged the gap between human expiration and the infinite qualities of images. The sprawling landscapes projected in the studio defied logic as they seamlessly morphed into new landscapes in an ever evolving cycle. Yet, as the bodies began to tire from physical exertion, the audience was reassured that infinity is just a concept and that the undulating images and glowing grids must eventually come to an end.
The more-than-human and the not-quite-human: for the angels in Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire and the replicants in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, respectively, the non-anthropoid is not all it's cracked up to be. Notwithstanding the frailty and fallibility of human bodies and desires, Bruno Ganz's Damiel and Rutger Hauer's Roy long for a temporality, a dailiness to living, that is at once more quotidian and less absolute than the one they currently inhabit. Such is the starting point for my colleague Rob Kitsos' new interdisciplinary dance piece Saudade, on at SFU Woodward's Studio T through this Saturday. Taking both films as key sources of inspiration, Kitsos and his collaborators have crafted a performance that combines movement, text, sound, light, multimedia projections and, not least, a series of moveable screens in order to explore the mutability and the porousness of borders between different states of being, including what it only seems proper--both within the multi-modal and perceptually immersive context of this piece and the conceptual premises of each film--to call the sensory and the extra-sensory.
In addition to sharing a world-weary detective as protagonist, Wings of Desire and Blade Runner are also notable for the ways in which they showcase the experience of alienated urban living, with the overheard interior conversations of the Berliners in the former and the walls of flashing neon advertising that form the futuristic backdrop to the Los Angelenos in the latter speaking in their different ways to the frequent attenuation of meaningful and felt interpersonal relationships in big cities. It's appropriate, then, that Saudade begins with the projected image of a city skyline that fills the upstage wall dissolving into what looks like a molecular mass that gradually fills the stage floor (the media design is by Remy Siu). Into this space steps Alexa Mardon, our surrogate flȃneuse, who proceeds to walk in a grid-like pattern, the map she is making (or is the one she is following?) illuminated for her and us on the floor (the lighting is by Jaylene Pratt, in consultation with Kyla Gardiner). Mardon is dressed in grey, which in terms of the more or less monochromatic colour scheme of Lorraine Kitsos' costume design, positions her as between what I took to be Cody Cox and Erika Mitsuhashi's angels (they wear white) and Michael Kong and Felicia Lau's replicants (in shades of black). And, indeed, to the extent that Mardon's character is both a part of and separate from the other dancers at various points throughout the piece, it is possible to read her as a combination of Rachel from Blade Runner and Marion from Wings of Desire, both of whom in their different ways hover between worlds (including as love objects).
Not that Kitsos' goal is to slavishly reproduce scenes or narrative tropes from each film. To be sure, the screens are effectively used throughout to convey the different insides and outsides of the various worlds being conjured (from the geometric to the kinaesthetic to the sonic), as well as the permeability of those worlds--as when, for example, Mitsuhashi leans her ear towards one of them to hear what we can see is happening just behind it. There is also an intensely physical scene in which Kong thrashes about on the floor downstage in a manner that recalls the painfully violent death of Pris, an interesting bit of cross-gender transference. However, for me the choreography was most captivating in those moments of almost- or shadow-partnering, when one of the dancers is mimicking from behind and with a slight but perceptible delay the movements of another. Here is where we see--and feel--that aching desire for connection with a human other--a space in which one's proffered hail (and the gesture of the raised hand is key for Kitsos throughout) is not just recognized, but also returned.
The Seattle Times: June 27, 2015
Rob Kitsos, from Canada, created a similar intensity by different means in “Sick Fish,” where his hyper-precise interaction with a prerecorded score and video had you hanging on every detail.
The Tempest:Theatre Review 2014
As choreographer, Rob Kitsos brings to life some of the best visuals of the evening with an imaginative opening sequence of the shipwreck that will leave you breathless. - See more at: http://vancouverpresents.com/theatre/theatre-review-tempest-proves-lightning-can-indeed-strike-twice.
Written by Mark Jacobs 2013
...t Mr. Kitsos’s piece is in some ways the most interesting, innovative, and successful of the three. This work is concerned with creative process; the subject matter and balletic form on which that process operates are secondary, even trivial considerations.
The program notes call “Con-Found” “an experiment in real-time composition.” The process began back when the piece was first in development, with the dancers/actors jointly creating simple patterns of movement intended to express ideas based on the mundane experience of losing things, along with the attendant frustrations and confusions. This becomes the library of dance movement from which the dancers/actors cull the actual performance.
The sequence in which these patterns are stitched together is determined in the moment, as the piece is in the process of performance, based on their sense of pre-determined structural and thematic imperatives Mr. Kitsos had established for them. The ensemble – Robert Azevedo, Aryo Khakpour, Jessie Kwan, Felicia Lau, Alex Mah, Sean Marshall Jr., Kim Stevenson, and Conor Wylie – prove themselves well up to the creative task. They have generated a variety of performance elements that are in turns narrative and representational, or abstract and evocative; and they sequence them during the performance in a way that feels coherent, if not exactly seamless.
At one point in the piece, one of the dancers/actors augments the discursive movement with an oral narrative concerning the loss of a wallet from the pocket of loosely fitting jeans while on a roller coaster. The story is no more fascinating, no less banal, than the representational storytelling of the improvised dance; but things become remarkable when it is subjected to retelling. It alters, if only in small ways. Points of emphasis shift and dramatic stylization varies. Each retelling describes the same events in the same sequence in essentially the same way; and yet the mutations are easy for the ear to discern. By putting this simple text through the same process as the dance movements, the audience is given a cipher through which to better appreciate the improvisational structure of the piece as a whole.
Casual Conversations: Kaija Pepper
There are two conversations going on here. One is recorded, a voice over about the need for newcomers to English-speaking countries to learn English not as an academic accomplishment but as a vernacular tool of communication. The other is a physical conversation between choreographers and performers Rob Kitsos and Kim Stevenson. Both conversations are very funny – the ums and ahs, the gottas and gonnas of everyday language, as well as the smooth robotic moves of the dancers who embody a steady stream of untranslatable modern dance vocabulary. At times, the duo become self-conscious, aware of their bodies, of each other, of the audience, standing still and looking about with surprise, or jerking a shoulder or a leg or their whole body with an expression of serious regret. They’re also very personable, Stevenson an earnest foil to the older, slyer Kitsos, who happily plays to the gallery. 2013
Globe and Mail: Year in Review
Flights of fancy and leaps of faith: Dance in 2011
Globe and Mail Update
Published Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 12:01AM EST
Classiest Dance in the West Award: Vancouver’s Rob Kitsos and his droll and compelling quartet Barego, a hit at the Dancing on the Edge Festival in July, that explored how “bar” and “ego” impact each other at a favourite watering hole.
Performance, Place, and Politics
A blog about the local/global interfaces of audience and event.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
At the Dancing on the Edge Festival's Edge Five presentation last night at the Firehall, Richard and I thrilled to the premiere of colleague and Objecthood collaborator Rob Kitsos' newest work. In Barego, Kitsos, together with Ballet BC dancers Leon Feizo-Gas and Alexis Fletcher and SFU Contemporary Arts alum Mark Arboleda, offer a meditation on the bar as a space where individual subjectivity and private desires (you can read the invisible slash mark in the title) come up against the rituals of public spectacle and collective judgment. Against a widescreen rear projection film loop consisting of a largely continuous pan of what I took to be the new Charles Bar at SFU Woodward's, and making strategic spatial use of three white barstools (which I like to think of as an homage by Rob to Objecthood), the four dancers mine (and at times mime) the subtle choreography so often exhibited in drinking establishments: from the way we perch on or fall off our stools to the complex sequence of hand and head movements involved in doing tequila shots; from the purposeful tango of would-be seduction to the elegant ballet of blissful inebriation. In solos, duos, and trios, Rob structures his movement around the twin poles of alienation and sociability, display and concealment that are always operating in the space of the bar: by that I mean that the dancers come together and move apart in patterns that telegraph at once the intoxicating effects of fellow-feeling and the sobering estrangement that comes when that feeling is withheld or not returned (including by the self).
Having worked with Rob, I know he likes to play with stage space, and that he is not afraid to have more than one thing going on at the same time movement-wise. I'm with him on this, as static dancers within a mise-en-scène is something that drives me nuts (and an element of Quiet that I couldn't understand, especially as Zaides' twice-repeated placement of his non-moving dancers downstage right effectively blocked the view of the left side of the house). All of which is to say that I appreciated how Rob played with foreground and background in Barego, including the incorporation of the film. One's attention is constantly being divided in a bar--focused near (on one's drink or potential conquest) and far (the animated conversations at adjacent tables, the sports game being broadcast on the television monitor, and so on)--so the fact that ours was as well during various sequences last night felt appropriate.
Acutely aware that bars are also prime sites of talk, with the confession, the boast, and the seduction all vying for performative supremacy, Rob incorporates audio excerpts from bar scenes in popular films into the work. Indeed, Rob himself offers up a memorable lip synch of a speech by Shelley "The Machine" Levene, the character Jack Lemmon played in Glengarry Glen Ross, and it's a treat to watch Fletcher incarnate the dissolute Wanda Wilcox (Faye Dunaway) from Barbet Schroeder's Barfly (Mickey Rourke's Henry to Dunaway's Wanda in that film: "What do you do?" Dunaway/Wanda: "I drink.").
One of the things that makes Rob's work so compelling to watch is that he not a "pure dance" choreographer; less interested in the technical execution of his movement, than in that movement's integration into a larger interdisciplinary aesthetic (one that often includes film/video, music, props, and big heaps of theatricality), Rob offers multiple avenues of access to the questions he chooses to explore. Movement is always central to this exploration, but it is never abstracted or marked off for its own sake. To this end, it is especially exciting to watch the classically trained Fletcher and Feizo-Gaz, so memorable as the leads in Rob's Long Story Short, his contribution to Ballet BC's Surfacing program at the Dance Centre in 2009, cut loose even further in Barego. The program notes state that the dancers had a hand in the choreography, and at moments last night line and extension definitely came to the fore; but Rob's inimitable choreography (where limbs contract and buckle as much as they straighten) kept everyone (dancers and audience alike) suitably off balance.
My one complaint: I wanted the piece to be longer. This definitely feels to me like a piece that can be expanded into something evening-length, and I do hope that Rob continues to work on it.
...Finally, my colleague Rob Kitsos brought down the house with "Regression Line," a Jets and Sharks-style contest of movement set to a propulsive rock score by Dub Trio. A dance rumble that repeatedly brings the dancers to the threshold of (presumably violent) contact, only to back away and start the marshalling of short, sharp movements all over again, the piece is remarkable for its aggressive yet incredibly disciplined energy. The gang groupings and their respective star-crossed leaders, as I conceived of them, circled each other warily, often precariously, and yet at the same time knew when to keep their distance, with Rob effectively juxtaposing vertical and horizontal lines of movement throughout.
Performance, Place, and Politics A blog about the local/global interfaces of audience and event. Posted by Peter Dickinson
Ballet British Columbia could not have signalled itâ€™s shaking things up more loudly and clearly. The final number in Surfacing, a new choreographic series, found the corps thrashing around the stage to crunching, hardcore-metal guitars. The beleaguered organization clearly has to reinvent itself, but tossing away the pink slippers and gauzy getups for tank tops and jeans in choreographer Rob Kitsosâ€™s audacious explosion of head-banging chaos? The angular, athletic movement was about as far from the flowing grace of contemporary ballet as you could get. The troupeâ€™s more traditional fans may have wondered what had just hit them. To some, it might have even been something akin to sacrilege. But I say, ‘Bring it on.’ ...
Kitsos’s shocking Regression Line could have come off as crass overstatement. But fed by the aggro guitars of hardcore fusionists Dub Trio, the troupe nailed the complexly chaotic patterning, axed the air with their legs and arms, and committed to the pieceâ€™s tortured passions.
Georgia Straight- by Janet Smith 2009
Kitsos's Push made great use of look-alike sisters Meghan and Vanessa Goodman in a mirror image dance of inner conflict. His attractive movement is graceful and athletic at the same time. Lights come up on a woman’s form Down Stage Right her back to the audience. She is lit from below, so that the muscularity of her legs and frame is apparent. Her clothes she’s wearing a black tank and briefs, knee pads and black arm bands imply that she’s a wrestler, and her strong bold movements confirm it. Up Stage Left lights come up on a parallel figure: another woman, similarly clad.
What unfolds is a simply gorgeous choreography of strength. The women map and mime something that hovers perfectly between the spectacle of the fight and a subtler tale of co-dependence. The interplay between their movements is so smooth that they appear to be striking or blocking each other, though they were actually assisting each other to move across the stage. This theatrical wrestling paid homage to everything from Sumo to the WWF, while still firmly embedding itself in the language of modern dance.
Much more advanced in its vocabulary than Hairy Lumps, the work incorporates stylized breaks and falls. There’s a smoothness, deliberateness, a simultaneous lightness and litheness to these dancers’ movements that was absent in the first work, and it was technically subtler and far superior.
Globe and Mail- Paula Citron 2009
"Impressive and innovative use of projection in 'Maya'- With a red dancer in front and the shadow of another dancer behind the projector screen created a dynamic mysterious feeling...Also, although it was only a short transition, Rob surprized us in his 'mime' solo with his sense of humor and dramatic quality. It made the dance entertaining and easier to understand."
2003 | Dance Journal Hong Kong Vol.6 No.2
"The Canadian premiere of SELF LOVE, by choreographer-performers Rob Kitsos and Scott Davis, explored coaching techniques for living in a happy, trusting reality, free of negative or oppressive thoughts... Luxuriating in the music of Roger Whittaker, they galloped and leapt in swift syncopation, punctuating the air with statements like _My dreams come true _ and _I trust and hear my inner guidance. _ Both artists _Kitsos is a Vancouverite, and Davis is from Seattle _instantly connected with the audience and had them roaring with laughter."
2005 | The Straight - Vancouver BC
"Entente - one of the high points of the last North west New Works at On The Boards"
2000 | Seattle Weekly
"It would be easy to characterize Rob Kitsos's 'Males Do That' as a 'guy dance.' Full of slapping butts and bumping chest, with faux homophobic comments about ballet and clips from the 'Full Monty,' its funny enough to get by on the jokes. Alongside the humor, though, are long sequences of juicy movement drawing from a wide variety of sources: contact improvisation, sports, hip hop, jazz and even the maligned ballet, performed with good natured virtuosity..."
2000 | Seattle Weekly | Sandra Kurtz
"When Rob Kitsos appeared on the dance scene in 1990, he quickly became the most sought after dancer. Not only was he capable, he was talented. Kitsos edgy and quirky style - a combination of street style sass, modern technique and mime - translated on stage into an urgent and largely theatrical presence."
1995 | Daily Gazette | Wendy Liberatiore
"...the blond and blue eyed rubber bodied dancer, mime and now musician who for years enlivened Albany's stages deftly embodying an incredible variety of choreographers..."
1993 | Albany Times Union | Constence Valis Hill
"At the heart of the piece was a male trio and duet. In the latter Lewis Bossing and Rob Kitsos make their way supporting and releasing each other in turn, along a path of light in a dance that is as powerful as it is tender."
1992 | New York Times | Jennifer Dunning | (Giina Gibney Dance)
"Of late, it is next to impossible to attend an area dance concert and not see this kinetic blond on stage."
1991 | Mertoland | Susan Mehalick
Naked egos – and bodies – at Vancouver dance fest
VANCOUVER — From Monday's Globe and Mail July 2011
Rob Kitsos (Vancouver)
Barego is the most accomplished piece I saw at DOTE this year. Its title combines the words “bar” and “ego” – a bar being a marketplace where our egos are put up for sale.
The scene, appropriately, is three bar stools, with a projection showing a grainy counter with liquor bottles. Mark Arboleda plays a laid back bartender, with stylized and detached movements to suit his job. Ballet BC dancers Alexis Fletcher and Leon Feizo-Gas are cast as young pickups, so to speak. And Kitsos himself takes on the role of an older hustler.
Kitsos has also created a sound design with voice tracks from bar scenes in three movies – Glengarry Glen Ross, Barfly and Swingers – whose dialogue inspires the choreography: In one scene, Kitsos encourages Feizo-Gas to make the moves on Fletcher; in another, he lip-syncs to Jack Lemmon’s voice as a real-estate agent bragging about a deal; in another, Fletcher acts as a jaded femme fatale circled by men.
The end game of all this? The intricacies of character and relationships Kitsos has created in movement are absolutely compelling.
Enlisting choreographer Rob Kitsos, Roe turns battles at Agincourt into haunting evocations of the horrors of war. Each of these scenes is suffused with the authenticity of era-specific weaponry — swords and pikes and longbows are employed, siege engines and battlements are evoked and the boom of cannons peppers a moody, looming sound design by Owen Belton.
Suitably equipped, the cast moves through these moments in rhythmic waves, mixing literal renderings of swordplay or the storming of a castle with pure artistic gestures of bravery, cowardice, valour or death. These profound tableaus are used to great effect as a lubricant to keep the show flowing through two long acts, yet what comes between is just as engaging.
Bard on the Beach- BY PETER BIRNIE, VANCOUVER SUN JULY 19, 2010
Her most evident device is the stylized choreographing of battle scenes (fight direction by Nicholas Harrison; choreography by Rob Kitsos). Instead of the usual clashing swords, we get something like line-dancing ballet. This is very effective when the English storm a French city with siege ladders, and later when a chorus of English archers does the dance of the longbows. But a little of this kind of impressionism goes a long way, especially when the actors are not trained dancers.
Vancouver Review 2010
…her commanding presence, combined with Pam Johnson's simple and effective set, and the brilliantly choreographed battle scenes (thank you choreographer Rob Kitsos and fight director Nicholas Harrison) made me always willing to believe that the battle had just occurred in front of my eyes.
Theater review blog 2010
Rob Kitsos's Wake, which premiered last night at The Dance Centre, and which runs for two more performances today (at 2 and 8 pm), is exactly the kind of dance theatre I most enjoy. It is a large-scale work for eight dancers (including Kitsos in a dual embodied and virtual role as choreographer/planner andmetteur-en-scÃ¨ne) that combines movement, text, video, and live electroacoustic music (by composer Martin Gotfrit) in a wholly integrated and complementary way. Equally appealing to me is that the piece achieves a similar reciprocity in the compositional and aesthetic relationship between individual sequences of choreography (often challengingly abstract, technically complex, and intensely physical) and an overall narrative structure that neither reveals its meaning too willingly nor remains deliberately obscurantist.
Kitsos takes as his point of departure French philosopher Michel de Certeau's essay "Walking the City," in The Practice of Everyday Life, using the "urban 'text'" we all collectively write in our flÃ¢nerie to explore both the spaces of connection and the distances between various bodies as they inhabit and interact with the built environment. How do you capture and represent what de Certeau calls "the activity of passers-by," when by its very nature that activity is meant to be fleeting, to not linger (passing by), to leave a trace only in its forgetting? Sounds like a perfect metaphor for the documentation of dance itself, and it is perhaps no coincidence that Wake opens with Rob Groeneboer's video capturing Kitsos in the guise of some sort of city planner, atop a downtown building, with various plans and blueprints spread out around him. Coincident with Kitsos's structured improvisation of a movement sequence atop the building on the video, the seven young live dancers (Cort Gerlock, Jane Osborne, Roxoliana Prus, Justin Reist, Olivia Shaffer, Kim Stevenson, and Leigha Wald--all graduates of the BFA Program in Dance at SFU, where Kitsos teaches) get up from the chairs on which they have been sitting along either wing, and take up recumbent positions on the floor. Eventually the dancers "wake" to the city, and one of the delights of the first in-sync movement sequence featuring all seven performers is how the horizontality of their floor work contrasts with the verticality of the office and residential towers captured in the montage of images in Groeneboer's video.
Thereafter, the piece proceeds in terms of a succession of movements choreographed around the dancers' own embodied relationship with the city, with various colour sequences filmed in and around Gastown becoming the basis for a reconfiguration (sometimes willful, at other times willed) of those relationships in solos and duos and trios that are all about negotiating the space between self and other (even if, as de Certeau reminds us, that other is space itself). In this regard, I was especially struck by the complex arm work and hand clasps Kitsos came up with for three of the women in one memorable sequence, finding a way to mimic in bodily gesture the tangled psychic complexity and constantly shifting terrain of friendship itself. Similarly, in a humourous pas de deux for the two men, they argue abstractly in spoken word about the best route from point A to point B as they materially enact proximity and closeness in their mutual physical striving.
In his role as planner/choreographer, Kitsos interrupts these proceedings at various points throughout the piece: via black and white sequences on the video that feature him furrowing his brow, taking notes, and eventually meeting up with someone who may be a developer or a government bureaucrat (a perfectly cast Emily Molnar) in some corporate boardroom; and via various live walk-throughs, during which he surveys and takes more notes on the performance we are witnessing. In this, we see Kitsos trying to flush out patterns, to make sense of various fragments, to render legible both the city's various intersections and the dancers' bodily intertwinings. But the city and the dancers resist easy conscription. When, for example, Kitsos improvises his own solo late in the show (to wonderful accompaniment on electric guitar by Gotfrit), attempting, it seems, to reduce what we have hitherto seen of the other dancers' bodily trajectories to one or two core repeatable phrases, those other dancers studiously avoid him, either remaining planted against either wing wall, or else, in running to the other side, going out of their way to avoid contact with Kitsos and his notebook (a prop he carries with him throughout the piece, and which he dances around during his solo). And, later, when Kitsos attempts to join the other dancers and mimic their movements at the very end, he finds he is unable to fully take part, perhaps not having paid close enough attention after all.
The dancer, like the city walker, does not easily conform to a grid.
Posted by Peter Dickinson
Rob Kitsos' PUSH is a duet for sisters Vanessa and Meghan Goodman. PUSH reflects on the constant struggle to keep moving forward past obstacles, both internal and external. As described in Plank magazine, the "two sisters explore their relationship to resistance and come head to head with their 'good natured habits.' They created very brave and (I mean this in the best possible sense) unattractive moments. They dared not being correct or pretty. This is a key transformational moment for artists: when they stop pleasing others and start unearthing themselves."
-Rachel Scott, Plank Magazine, December 15th 2008
"Thought for Food", a trio by Rob Kitsos (a faculty member at SFU) for himself, Jane Osborne and Jocelyn Wong, was definitely not predictable, and that was its strength. One minute it was all about long lines and tight trio work and the next it was humorous, as Kitsos grabbed a mic and lip-synched to the plaintive voice-over of a middle-aged, female New Yorker.
The Dance Current 2006
"This company [Chamber Dance Company] boasts the unparalleled Rob Kitsos, a tremendously talented choreographer and dancer who most often injects humor into his work, a rarity in modern dance. His previous works featured the ricitation of cornball self-help cliches while he and fellow dancer Scott Davis floated around the stage in orange flight suits. (And you thought modern dance was already funny looking)" "Entents - one of the high points of the last North west New Works at On The Boards"
2000 | Seattle Weekly
"Startling from beginning to end. Choreographed and performed by Cyrus Khambatta and Rob Kitsos of the Phffft! Dance Theater Company, it depicted a brutal struggle between two office workers. It was a duet so extravagant and gleefully malicious that one took an almost guilty pleasure in beholding such unrestrained evil."
1997 | New York Times: Jack Anderson (Modern Barbarism at Dance Theater Workshop)
"Kitsos swimming in slow motion against the music, engages. Most admirable is the choreographers ability to challenge and invent movement for a dancer who recalls the sensual litheness and spring of Vaslav Nijinsky."
1993 | Albany Times Union | Constence Valis Hill
"Most Popular Dancer: To call Rob Kitsos versatile, or a renaissance man of the dance, is understatement...he dances just about everything. Just last week he played the crotchety Octogenerian, grandfather Silberhaus, in the Berkshire's 'Nutcracker'. My favorite was Bill T Jones 'Havoc in Heaven', where Kitsos isolates his body parts into a dozen disjointed dashes and dots as if he'd been shot with a bolt of electricity. 'Kitsos has something I love', said Jones, 'he's willing to try anything.'"
1992 | Albany Times Union