Pite’s modest Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue (which I saw at its premiere and reviewed a year ago) is one of Cedar Lake’s best works, with five dancers spelling each other in a series of one-on-one adventures. And it’s not always the men who do the manipulating. Battisti, Bond, and Choi join Nickemil Concepcion and Ebony Williams in the cast I saw. Watching Bond and Williams in a burst of fast unison, you can see one of Pite’s talents. The dancers don’t make only big-whole-bodied moves; now a thrust-out leg seizes the initiative, now an arm sweeps up, now the torso makes a comment—all without breaking the flow. That’s more unusual than you might think in this kind of go-for-broke dancing, and very welcome.

The first full week of January is always bursting with dance performances for the delectation of those who attend the APAP conference (Association of Performing Arts Presenters). Companies either try to schedule their seasons in town that week, or present excerpts from their work in showcases all over the city. X2 , a collaboration between Yoshiko Chuma and Shirotama Hitsujiya, the artistic director of the Tokyo-based Yubiwa Hotel, could hardly be more different from Cedar Lake’s glossy adventures in expertise. The announcement for X2 contained a single provocative line (typos and all): “Human being freeze themselves into blooks of ice and seek the spark that will them free again.” The audience of 40 that can barely squeeze onto three risers at one end of CRS’s small gallery is treated to a performance rooted in political concern, intelligence, and utter wackiness that’s presented with the kind of informality a hostess might offer her drop-in guests.

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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Ray Roy, billed as “video wizard,” controls the projected lush green landscape-with-waterfall, over which fly hordes of winged little (action?) figures. He carefully places tiny plastic trees in front of a lamp that throws images of them onto the side wall. Oh, and he’s wearing a bear-head. On tape, little high voices sing “Summertime.” An eight-year-old girl, Lincoln Alkind, gets up from her seat in the first row and positions a remote-controlled flying saucer to zoom around the landscape (two humps covered in clear plastic). Chuma, transforming gesticulation into an urgent dance, has to duck. If the saucer overturns, Alkind rights it. The jungle becomes night sky. Aurora Borealises materialize (lighting by Rie Ono). Kristine Lee and Chuma do a lot of plugging and unplugging of construction-site lights on long cords and uncover the humps. During one of their cleanups of performance detritus, videos of hurricanes and volcanic flow agitate the background.

They drag in what looks like a corpse, but turns out to be an American flag, with the prone, but very much alive Hitsujiwa lying on it. She’s wearing rabbit ears and ice skates. The flag gets covered with clear plastic. (Is it getting colder in here?) So now we have a girlfriend-duo. Hitsujiya harmonizes on “Welcome to Shanghai” with Lee, who’s also her obliging translator. Lee tells a tale that begins “Once there was a bunny,” and goes into the bunny’s family background (her great grandmother spoke Esperanto). The lumps turn out to be ice blocks. Inside one, you can see a book of what look like family photos. Roy mentions his heritage (he’s a Russian Polish Jew and something else I forget). Hitsujiya turns to him: “You don’t really need to say that; you are bear.” Another sequence isn’t so funny: Chuma brandishes a revolver at us furiously, but it’s aimed at her, and her white coat leaks green blood as she staggers around. In the crowd-engaging category, Alkind stands very close to the first row and does a card trick that involves a tale of four kings going into a building (the deck) and climbing onto the roof one by one. She pulls this off with aplomb while Chuma hovers; accidentally getting an ace on her third draw from the deck, the third-grader remarks coolly, “I guess one of them didn’t make it out.”

It seems as if we’re dealing with the past as puzzled over by the future, with an ice age and global warming and climate disarray. Roy places an extinct dinosaur in front of the light but also creates a little farmyard that’s swept away. Attacking the ice block with picks and the skates, the cast hands out chips to us in little plastic bags and invites us to drink from a glass of liquid with a big ice chunk floating in it. The “water” turns out to be vodka. They sing “Country Road” in Japanese. A video shows the Tetons swathed in ice. In the end, while the flag is being folded and the performing area stripped bare, little Alkind stands with the photo album, still glazed with ice, held between her hands. She looks uncomfortable holding this freezing relic but doesn’t give up. Our heroine. Faint, fragile, and far away, we can hear the beginning notes of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

This enigmatic, scrambled, absurdist performance shakes me up strangely—as if unfreezing were a process both benign and cataclysmic. It reminds me too that we as a nation have a lot of house-cleaning to do, and we’d better get started.

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