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Richard Penberthy
Performance Reviews
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Cedar Lake
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Cedar Lake - 3 Thursdays - Face-to-Face

by Richard Penberthy
October 19, 2006
Cedar Lake
547 West 26th Street (between 10th & 11th Avenues)
New York, NY 10001
(212) 486-722
The 3 Thursdays performance, "a new installation incorporating choreography, lighting, and video created by the Cedar Lake resident artists and company," runs two performances per night - at 6:00 and 6:45 - on October 12, 19, and 26, 2006. The performances are free, with the first 50 admitted by reservation, and the next 50 admitted on a first come, first served basis.
This event is exciting. To understate: it is an unconventional way to experience dance. There is no printed program, no credits to individual artists, nothing to riffle through during the performance. What there is - dance, image, sound - is all that matters. Cedar Lake demands something important from its audience - that they not be hide-bound. For, the company is never pretty - instead, it is gorgeous, and it takes an audience with enough democracy in its soul that it will be thrilled by the unconventional.

The audience of 100 is admitted to the large open space in the dark. No chairs! No wondering who has a better seat! The audience is invited to circulate, to move along with the performance, to take some responsibility for its own enjoyment.

A huge, stark, glossy white table, surrounded by six benches, centers the space, all straight lines and monumental in scale, and above it, the same surfaces, table and benches appear as if in reflection, but crosswise, rather than parallel. (The projections will appear on the surface of this suspended, upended tabletop.) Near the entrance, the technical artists staff a broad booth, with the various light, sound, video control boards in full view. At the far end of the space, where dance would normally be staged, is a performance area, not quite a stage, that continues along the side walls to make a narrow U-shape. As the performance develops, dancers utilize other micro stages - a high pulpit-like platform, a second-storey hoist door, the tops of lighting platforms, ropes suspended from the girders. And one finds oneself at some point face-to-face with a dancer, in the way, in the light, and part of the scene. It is marvelous.

The music ranges from shuddering, loud instrumental poundings to Edith Piaf's plaintive "La Vie en Rose" which morphs, as the mood of the dance changes, into a shrill, threatening screech as if Chip n' Dale, the Chipmunks, had confiscated Piaf, made her desperate torch into a weapon. The sound engineering is a spectacle unto itself that scans from soft complaint to battlefield volume, from rhythmic to startling, from the familiar to the enervating. Overhead, the video reinforces and echoes the live dance, but, because the audience is itself mobile, the projected images are for the most part lost to them - few can take their eyes off the dancers.

The perpetual motion, the stir of the crowd, the fading in and out of the light, and the thematic switches, all work against knowing exactly who is dancing and who is not. It appears that there are 20 - or is it 14? - dancers involved. Jason Kittelberger seems the personification of evil - or is he only trying to control chaos? - a hoodie or a dark friar or Death? As soon as a linear narrative begins to take shape in the viewer's mind, it just as quickly turns on itself, dissolves into mood alone.

Dancers fade out, then reappear in new costumes, new effects. Late in the performance, the dancers emerge from the dark, from turning away, with oral surgeons' clear plastic spreaders in their mouths, clenched teeth gleaming and faces are pushed aside in broad folds, hideous and vengeful. They are transmogrified into Tikis or Northwest Coast totems. And, in a moment they will change again, assume a corporate demeanor around a boardroom table. Which is the more savage?

The performance is only 35 minutes in length, and all that while, the audience is involved physically, and viscerally as well, in surprise and excitement. Every dancer is fine, each one is featured somewhere in the continuum and brilliant to watch, worth taking awhile to focus on. The whole of it is confusing, embracing, and packed, simply packed, with a treasury of images and impressions.
The Cedar Lake company in '3 Thursdays.'

The Cedar Lake company in "3 Thursdays."

Photo © & courtesy of Adam Larsen

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