Steve Sucato, The Plain Dealer | January 28, 2014
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet brings world-class moves to PlayhouseSquare (review)
By Steve Sucato
When Walmart heiress Nancy Laurie founded New York-based Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet a decade ago, skepticism abounded over the troupe with a big-city budget and a small-town name. Since then, however, the company has created quite the buzz in the dance world for its to-die-for repertory by A-list choreographers and its talented roster of international dancers.
Saturday night at PlayhouseSquare's Ohio Theatre, it was Northeast Ohio's turn see what all the buzz was about, as DanceCleveland presented the troupe in three stylistically diverse ballets.
While Saturday's nasty winter weather put a slight damper on attendance, those who braved the elements were treated to a sampling of the crme de la crme of contemporary ballet technique, style and taste gracing world stages today.
The program opened with the ballet "Indigo Rose" (1998) by the Balanchine of contemporary ballet, Jiri Kylian.
A wire strung diagonally across the stage from ceiling to floor served as the backdrop to dancer Jon Bond as he ripped through a sequence of hectic dance moves that shimmied and shook.
Bond was soon joined by others in Kylian's choreography, set to an eclectic mix of music by composers including John Cage and Robert Ashley, as the ballet moved through smart, lively, gesture-filled and expertly crafted dance phrases that paused at times, allowing some of the dancers to cheekily mug at the audience as if saying, "How do you like me now?"
The ballet then switched gears, as two male/female couples engaged in sparsely lit, side-by-side pas de deuxs dense with lush, intricate partnering.
It concluded with another rapid-fire section where a white curtain was drawn across the background wire, making it look like a sail that bisected the stage. Dancers then performed in front of and behind the curtain, creating varying sized shadows on the curtain as they moved.
The ballet wound to halt when the dancers suddenly froze in place onstage and a video of some of them was projected on a screen above them, transitioning the audience's perspective on these beings as superhuman performers into a glimpse of them as ordinary people.
Next came five dancers, 10 duets and 20 minutes of pure dance gold in Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite's "Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue" (2008). The ballet gem, commissioned by Cedar Lake and set to beautifully haunting music from the sci-fi movie "Solaris" by Cliff Martinez, was atmospherically lit by a semicircle of freestanding white lights on stands the dancers wheeled about the stage at times.
Athletic and gymnastic partnering that twisted and turned produced breathtaking lifts and the graceful melding of bodies that spoke to one's soul. Limbs rose and fell as if pulled by imaginary strings and meticulous, sometimes aggressive movement dotted the stage, briefly snapping one out of the ballet's lulling and mesmerizing lure.
Cedar Lake's dancers were at the top of their game in it, eliciting audible gasps from audience members thrilled by the unexpected turns in Pite's choreography. One of the ballet's most lasting images was that of Navarra Novy-Williams moving in slow motion horizontally across the stage with one arm outstretched behind her as Matthew Rich ran frantically in place trying to reach for her hand.
The program ended with Greek choreographer Adonis Foniadakis' 2013 ballet for the company, "Horizons." Inspired by the frantic pace of New York City, the ballet was set to a powerful and rousing score by Julien Tarride that interlaced music with the soothing dialogue of relaxation-tape narrators.
Foniadakis' movement language for the dancers, however, was anything but relaxing and worked as the antithesis of the music's hypnotic message of calm and reflection. His choreography was fitful and had the dancers looking as if in the throes of seizures, whipping their heads and limbs violently about and seeming to be without skeletal control.
After the initial shock of the movement's abandon, the piece settled into familiar patterns of dancer groupings and unison dancing, all employing Foniadakis' rag-doll movement language.
The somewhat overworked ballet's most interesting part came when a dancer was pulled out standing atop a red carpet. The carpet then became the stage for a series of motion-blurring duets that ended with dancers Jin Young Won and Guillaume Quau in a passionate intertwining of their bodies as water rained down, slowly soaking them.
Cedar Lake's world-class performance proved a perfect beginning to a new year of dance, continuing a recent string of DanceCleveland hits.
Sucato is a writer and critic and chairman emeritus of the Dance Critics Association.