Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet has been at the forefront of innovation in dance since its inception. Their newest venture, "Glassy Essence," is a performance installation unique to the company's greatest resources: its wealth of dance talent and its luck of space freedom. Highly publicized online through their website glassyessence.com, the process is just as interesting as the product.
Throughout the performance, which runs twice a night for two weekends in May, dancers move about the company's vast, open theater space that has been emptied of seats and wings. Here, there are no boundaries. The audience is part of the performance, moving amongst the constantly shifting exhibits of dancers, sometimes retracting back in discomfort, sometimes aggressively getting in the way of the action.
A panel of marley dance floor circumscribes half of the space. The center backdrop is like a cubed climbing wall, with squares poking out at various depths and heights. A raised stage slightly larger than a pool table sits at the middle of the room, surrounded by an unsure audience waiting for lighting cues to signal the start of their interactive experience.
As the dancers come out and step off the dance floor into the crowd it's like they emerge from a magic mirror. Suddenly an idolized image becomes real. The dancer is a person, not a fixture on an untouchable stage. And yet they remain in their own reflective world, refusing to make eye contact but sifting through the audience with high sensitivity. The audience revokes as if the dancers' auras cast them aside.
Gravity is nonexistent in their world that collides with ours. Large hang-gliding like structures harness the dancers at one point, allowing them not to fly carelessly but to slow down weight. Partnering with this quality is impressive, as two dancers waver above the raised stage, or the men stand upright on each other's shoulders.
They defy reality even without special effects. As men sit on the cube wall they hold the women with their feet under their arms as if they just caught them from falling off a cliff. Danger isn't an option, though. The hanging ladies swim and waft through space as if their air were heavy, imprinting their beauty invisibly on their atmosphere, not ours.
This is where dance is headed. Parts are reminiscent of a nightclub with flashy lighting and tight crowds, but the engagement of the audience in movement appeals to the new generation of dancegoers. While boundaries are broken, the dancers are still otherworldly. There is so much going on that it is difficult to catch many moments. But no performance will be the same, the exciting nature of this type of work.