By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Miriam Felton-Dansky
By Tom Sellar
By Tom Sellar
By Jessica Dawson
By Tom Sellar
By R. C. Baker
By Tom Sellar
Sleek and powerful. Words heavily featured in car ads fit the dancers of Cedar Lake like a bespoke suit. All of them have high-level ballet chops, yet are adroit at screwing themselves into the forceful, gleaming, off-kilter steps designed by the mostly European choreographers invited by artistic director Benoit-Swan to stage works for the company.
Cedar Lake is a classy establishment. The paper in the press release is thick, the press kit an artfully designed, paperback-sized folder. Stylishly spare set designs enliven the high-ceilinged black-box theater. Lighting designer Jim Frenchs 15 moveable standing spotlights for Canadian choreographer Crystal Pites Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue (the black lamps themselves looking oddly like Meryl Streeps bonnet in Doubt) suggest observers as well as illuminators. The nine dancers in Didy Veldmans frame of view move in and around Miriam Buethers skeletal room, in which three wooden doors that look suspended in emptiness prove to be sturdy enough to slam, clamber up, and hang from.
Because the company is handsomely endowed (the dancers are paid 52 weeks a year), it can not only commission pieces, but, on occasion, are able to give certain choreographers residencies of several months to develop material with the performers. In 2007, Batshevas Ohad Naharin adapted his Decadance for Cedar Lake with stunning results, and this year the half- Flemish, half-Moroccan Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui will make a new work to commissioned music. New Yorkers who remember with delight the collaboration between Akram Khan and Cherkaoui that was shown at BAM last April will either make a trip to Jacobs Pillow this summer to catch the Cedar Lake premiere or see it at the Joyce next fall.
The members of Cedar Lake are interesting and individual. You want to know them better, see their special qualities as peoplenot just as the dream machines they are in one of this seasons commissions, Luca Veggettis memory/measure. Veggetti isolates four dancers (Jubal Battisti, Jon Bond, Soojin Choi, and Acacia Schachte in the cast I saw) in a black space on a white floor. Roderick Murrays lighting is clear and simple, but subtly enhancing. The unadorned black outfits are softened by velvet. The movement, likewise, is not harsh, but neither is it revelatory. The four move mostly in isolation from one another to an eruptive sound score by Paolo Aralla. Schachte is on pointe and bare-leggedgiven to deep wide-legged pliés on her toe-tips that give her a spidery look (this must be a favorite move of Veggettis; it figured in Silence Text, a work he staged for Benjamin Millepiedsgroup in 2006).
Amid the crashes, a womans voice speaks intermittently. Veggetti said in an interview that the text was inspired by Ingmar Bergman, but its cryptic sentences (e.g., Nothing happens for a long time and then the sound of steps) and the ambience of memory/measure remind me more of Alain Resnais Last Year at Marienbad (minus the elegant attire and the formal gardens). The texts spoken words (like pointed and fell) seem to fly around and alight on dancers and briefly trigger corresponding gestures; you have to keep scanning the stage to catch the moves before theyre dropped. The pauses in which the four stare about searchingly refer to the fleeting nature of memories. The word measure in the title is reflected in the journeys that various of them make at different timestracing the perimeters in slow, deep lunging steps or testing their equilibrium. Its all very precise and chill, as if the performers were test drivers calculating the efficiency of the beautiful machines that are their bodies.
Didy Feldman clearly intended to present the nine dancers as personages in her frame of view. Buether has costumed each of them differently in rather eccentric street clothes. The snatches of musicfrom sources as diverse as Offenbachs Tales of Hoffman, Jacques Brels Ne me quitte pas sung by Nina Simone, and the Kronos Quartets rendition of a piece by Osvald Golijovsupport such a variety of endeavors and encounters having to do with doors that we cant zero in on any one of the gifted performers for long. They open and close the sets doors, enter and leave, pause in the beams laid out by Ben Ormerods lighting. They wait in the area outside the room. And, of course, they danceexpertly and engaginglychoreographic material that has a kind of offhand fluency but tells us little about them.
Solitude is the obvious theme, contrasted to the hubbub of partying (voices on tape). Certain scenes stand out. Schachte, strutting coolly in imaginary high heels, is followed by a contingent of men (Christopher Adams, Jason Kittleberger, Oscar Ramos, Golan Yosef, and Battisti); she gets rid of them, finally slamming the door and laughing as she romps to Offenbachs famous can-can. The guys hang out on the other side of the door for a while, resting and chatting, but leave one by one. Naturally, shes disappointed. But she snuggles up to a mysterious lover behind the central door, whose face pushes out the stretchy fabric on the doors panel and who slips an inviting hand through the mailbox. Clichés abound. Ana-Maria Lucacu does a frustrated-office-worker number, tangling herself around a desk and chair. In a scene redolent of Pina Bausch, Lucacu, Schachte, Choi, and Marina Mascarelli keep wilting and screaming out for Jason; Kittelberger races to catch each one before she hits the floor.