Cedar Lake Freezes While Yoshiko Chuma Thaws

“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 French’s 15 moveable standing spotlights for Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite’s Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue (the black lamps themselves looking oddly like Meryl Streep’s bonnet in Doubt) suggest observers as well as illuminators. The nine dancers in Didy Veldman’s frame of view move in and around Miriam Buether’s 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, Batsheva’s 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 Jacob’s Pillow this summer to catch the Cedar Lake premiere or see it at the Joyce next fall.

The Cedar Lake cast of Didy Veldman’s "frame of view"
Julieta Cervantes
The Cedar Lake cast of Didy Veldman’s "frame of view"

Details

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Cedar Lake Theater
547 West 26th Street
212-868-4444
January 8 through 18

Yoshiko Chuma & Shirotama Hitsujiya
Center for Remembering and Sharing (CRS)
January 9 through 11

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The members of Cedar Lake are interesting and individual. You want to know them better, see their special qualities as people—not just as the dream machines they are in one of this season’s commissions, Luca Veggetti’s 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 Murray’s 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-legged—given to deep wide-legged pliés on her toe-tips that give her a spidery look (this must be a favorite move of Veggetti’s; it figured in Silence Text, a work he staged for Benjamin Millepied’sgroup in 2006).

Amid the crashes, a woman’s 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 text’s 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 they’re 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 times—tracing the perimeters in slow, deep lunging steps or testing their equilibrium. It’s 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 music—from sources as diverse as Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman, Jacques Brel’s “Ne me quitte pas” sung by Nina Simone, and the Kronos Quartet’s rendition of a piece by Osvald Golijov—support such a variety of endeavors and encounters having to do with doors that we can’t zero in on any one of the gifted performers for long. They open and close the set’s doors, enter and leave, pause in the beams laid out by Ben Ormerod’s lighting. They wait in the area outside the “room.” And, of course, they dance—expertly and engagingly—choreographic 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 Offenbach’s 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, she’s 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.

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