Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brief Review of Cedar Lake (UPDATED with pics)

Writing in a rush but wanted to get this out. May extend it for ExploreDance if I find time. Right now I'm off to class all day, and then seeing Parsons Dance tonight.


Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet knows how to please. Its ten day winter season, which opened Thursday at its home space in Chelsea offers two world premiers and the return of a favorite from last year.

Didy Veldman’s new “frame of view” injects humor in what has become Cedar Lake’s signature writhing, powerful movement language. A cubic frame defines the set and challenges the eye’s perspective. Doors dot the two empty “walls” and back. During the piece the dancers move around, through, and over these barriers. At one point there is even partnering executed through the mail slot.

In a pre-performance discussion, Ms. Veldman and the company’s artistic director Benoit-Swan Pouffer noted that many choreographers shy away from humor, and for good reason. Yet “frame” ignites a chuckle in clever ways. Two of the dancers stare at each other and begin to move in slow motion, but this is not like any other pas de deux. The woman arches her way to the floor, balancing her weight with the man, whose free arm swings across her head. She turns and her jaw expands, her eyes bug. It’s like a fight through molasses. A third dancer stands observing over them, periodically tossing yellow confetti into the action. Cue laugh.

In another section, four women groove slowly in a line, only to pretend to faint. “Jason!” the first screams, and the man runs to catch the lithe damsel. A minute later, another shouts for him. And another reaches for her head. Soon poor Jason (Kittelberger) is submerged in arms and legs across his chest as he carries them offstage.

In all, it’s the theatricality of Ms. Veldman’s choreographic and music choices that make the piece enjoyable and a standout in the company’s often dark repertory.

The other premier on the program was less memorable even though it was danced intensely by some of the company’s best. Luca Veggetti’s “memory/measure” seems atypical of the company’s work because there is no real “wow” factor.

Crystal Pite’s “Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue” gets better with every viewing (my review of it’s premiere is here). Each segment varies in how it represents images of rescue, with some more obvious than others. But it is a lovely cohesive whole. Jim French’s lighting design adds warmth to the passionate dancing. Ebony Williams gives particularly strong energy in all that she does.

Looking at the company’s plans for the new year it is clear that growth is happening. No further performances in their cozy home space are currently planned (they head to the Spoleto Festival, America Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, and then The Joyce). It’s definitely worth it to check out this program, running until January 18.

(photos by Julieta Cervantes)

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