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Richard Penberthy
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Cedar Lake
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DECADANCE at Cedar Lake

by Richard Penberthy
June 8, 2007
Cedar Lake
547 West 26th Street (between 10th & 11th Avenues)
New York, NY 10001
(212) 486-722
DECADANCE

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Friday, June 8, 2007

Choreography: Ohad Naharin - Reconstructed sections of ten ballets, 1985-2006
The stage goes dark, silence, the lights come up on eleven dancers, men and women, in black tights worn under white shorts-length unitards. The white outlines of the unitards, against a dark background, into which the tights disappear, seem like bones, a paleontological stillness. The only beat is unheard, interior to the dancers. They are still, unmoving, unbreathing, for an icy age, for what seems like the decade in question.

Finally, when one dancer frenzies, then stops, the others register the stop with the slightest jarring, a jerk of shoulders, then they freeze again. Another writhes into frenzy, artful, stunningly rapid contractions, arms and legs in rigid opposition to classic port de bras. The frenzies affect each, one at a time, and with each, all the dancers together close the frenzy with a crouch and silent pounding with their fists, then stand again. The contagion goes forward to pairs, then in every-other-dancer patterns, and so the ballet begins.

This is in many ways a typical ballet for Cedar Lake: astoundingly energetic, heart-pounding, full stride dancing by what may be the most keyed-up and athletic company in existence. But it is atypical in that there are no slide or film projections, no elaborate lighting effects, no stage smoke, and minimal set and properties. This paring down gives us the pure excitement of watching (and hearing) the dancers. Interestingly, the choreographer, Ohad Naharin, also writes about simplifying: "It involves the subtraction of weight from…structure (so [my work] can fly or at least float)…."

There are dances here that resonate deeply in the subconscious, drawing sadness to mind. One, a duet with Acacia Schachte and Jason Kittelberger, is heartbreaking. They are clothed in the suggestion of elegance, starched black tops of a wiry, see-through fabric with gold thread gleaming here and there, but with the garments' elements – sleeves for instance – held on only by elastic tapes. She precedes him, dancing, backing onto the stage, at once leading and facing him, looking at him apprehensively. He pursues slowly, walking at crouch, his hands gripped together in front of him. He does not look at her, but only at his hands, which he tolls slowly from the wrist. When he reaches to her, she pushes him back and they begin again. When they finally come into standing contact, the dance explodes with strength, practically with levitation: he lifts her – literally – by her head, for one example. Finally, of course, parting. There is sorrowing enough to believe this is a reflection of Mr. Naharin's loss of his wife to cancer. The sadness is that palpable.

One brief trio, with Jubal Battisti the central figure, with two women, is performed to music from Vivaldi's Stabat Mater. The trio is amost a quote from a similar Balanchine pas de trois. It is different, of course, but the dependence of each dancer, the interrelatedness of their dance is striking.

There are tribal explorations, a choreographic essay on belonging and exclusion, on taboo behavior; a commentary on available choices to women who aspire to be haute bourgeois; a lip-synching, stilt-walking vamp; and more.

One dance, which at first glance seems to be a mere crowd-pleaser, involves the dancers in tuxedoes taking partners from the audience to dance with them onstage. There is a moment of ha-ha, but eventually, the nature of the event changes: the professionals and the audience members are – hear this – kind to one other, attentive, they try to do what will work best for the other. It becomes a magically beautiful dance.

There is one intermission, announced by Jon Bond, who announces himself as Intermission, and though the audience may take advantage of the time to find comfort outside, Mr. Bond proceeds to show his acrobatic and flirting(!) skills with the audience throughout the entire intermission. His curriculum vitae reads impressively: he has won many contests and performed around the world, and yet here he is clowning with an audience, engaging them completely. And, without so much as a breather, he participates in the next long, demanding dance. He is astounding.

The dances comprising this performance are so various that, though there is sometimes an attempt at articulation among them, and though some are close relatives, they are of different spirit and tone. There are at least 20 different sources of the recorded music, ranging from Beethoven to traditional Israeli tunes to custom sounds.

Cedar Lake is one of those companies that one wants to stay together and grow forever, as it seems impossible that a newcomer could possibly grow rapidly enough into their frantic level of dancing. But, the company has changed: Jon Bond, William Vaughn Credell, Shani Garfinkle, Oscar Ramos, and Riley Watts have all joined this year. A couple are leaving very soon too – Shani Garfinkle and Riley Watts will move to other companies after August. On Friday night, Judith Jameson from Alvin Ailey was in attendance, and one wondered if she was prospecting. Cedar Lake is holding open auditions for men.

This program will run through July 1, except Mondays. Tuesdays through Saturdays the program runs at 8:00 PM, and it begins at 7:00 PM on Sundays. It is a wonderful program.
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