Dance Review: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet at The Joyce
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, the ultra-sexy company formed by Wal-Mart heiress Nancy Laurie, burst onto the scene in 2003, garnering innumerable Dance Magazine covers and glowing reviews. On Wednesday night, I impatiently awaited the rise of the curtain on the company’s second program of their fall season at The Joyce. The bill featured the company standard Sunday, Again by Norwegian choreographer Jo Stromgren, and the New York premiere of both Hofesh Shechter’s The Fools and Didy Veldman’s frame of view.
Sunday, Again, which premiered in Oslo in 2008, explores the combative nature of relationships using the slightly random metaphor of badminton. (Who among us doesn’t relate to badminton?) However, quite a few of us can relate to dysfunctional relationships and the emotional life of each couple is earnestly expressed with fluent, graceful lines and breathtaking partnering. The opening duet between Jason Kittelberger and Acacia Schachte is particularly elegant. Likewise, Harumi Terayama’s playful interlude with partner Jubal Battisti showcases her lightning feet and youthful vitality. But while themes of loneliness and ostracism weave in and out, the piece never really comes together. For all the exacting technique and effortless duets, one is left thinking, "But why should I care?"
The world of the second piece, Hofesh Shechter’s The Fools, contrasts sharply with Stromgen’s world of badminton and refined aggression. Shechter’s darkly lit set creates a menacing atmosphere, and the opening sequence immediately catches your interest, with eight dancers, or Shadows, clothed in what appear to be black straitjackets, dancing wildly to a series of drumbeats. Then the Fools enter: seven characters in their underwear, hunched over, stepping deliberately in riveting slow motion. By part two, the Fools are fully dressed in clone-like office wear, and the choreography becomes more stilted and mechanical to reflect their inner life. Schechter’s choreography retains a sense of the unexpected, with breakouts by the Shadows interwoven with the Fool’s choreography, which, as the piece progresses, becomes more desperate and absurd. Soloist Manuel Vignoulle steals the show with his gut-wrenching, athletic solo.
In the third and final piece, Didy Veldman’s frame of view, nine lithe, sinewy dancers glide between a series of three rather flimsy doors, designed by Miriam Buether. The doorways are meant both literally and figuratively as passageways to happiness and tragedy. Though enjoyable overall, the ballet leans towards the latter half of the term "artsy-fartsy," due mostly to Veldman’s tendency to incorporate spoken word into the soundtrack, which in this case was distracting and annoying. Still, several vignettes resonated deeply: the lonely, sexy ballerina dancing a duet with a faceless figure through a rubber-paneled door, a slow-motion fight where Terayama’s features and technique are used to maximum comic effect, and two lonely souls sharing a turtleneck in a lovely, pitiful duet. frame of view had the most personality of the evening and offered the most humor, insight and catharsis.
Does Cedar Lake live up to the hype? Not with this program, no. But they certainly proved to be a risk-taking company full of beautiful, powerful dancers. I am curious to see what their next steps will be.
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