I had such a good time at the Cedar Lake dress rehearsal and blogger meet-up on Wednesday that I decided to attend one of the company’s performances. The one-time performance of Ohad Naharin’s Decadance (which Cedar Lake performed this past summer) sold out weeks ago, but thanks to Caleb Custer, who does audience outreach for Cedar Lake and helped organize Wednesday’s event, Allison and I were able to secure two standing room spots for the Sunday evening performance. Many thanks, Caleb!
Decadance is a compilation of excerpts from ten of Naharin’s past works. It is not just a showcase of his talent as a choreographer, but also a reworking and adaptation of themes and movement, and a carefully organized piece that weaves the various excerpts into an organic whole. The beauty of Decadance is that it coheres. In the program notes, Naharin explains, “Decadance is about reconstruction: I like to take pieces or sections of existing works and rework it, reorganize it and create the possibility to look at it from a new angle. It always teaches me something new about my work and composition…”
In the opening sequence, from Naharin’s Virus (2001), the dancers stand still in a line downstage. One by one, they explode into quick, electrifying movement, and then return to their places in the line. Every few minutes, they all turn to face stage left and their fists pump the air. If I had been seated while watching all of this, I imagine I would have been very fidgety, since my impulse was to join them in the kinetic and exhilarating movement. Standing was just as challenging, but I resisted the urge to rush on stage. Later in the program, several audience members did have the opportunity to dance with the dancers. Dressed in suits and swaying to music by Pablo Beltran Ruiz, the dancers wander into the aisles and each invite an audience member onto the stage. Everyone dances and jumps around to a techno version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, and then the dancers lead their audience companions in a choreographed dance to Arvo Part’s “Fur Alina”. There is a wonderful balance between set structures for the Cedar Lake dancers and the opportunity for improvisation for the audience members.
Other highlights of Decadance include an excerpt from George and Zalman (2006), in which five women repeat phrases of movement that coincide with the recording of a woman’s voice, which is also repeated with accumulated instructions: “Ignore all possible concepts and possibilities. Ignore Beethoven. The spider. The Damnation of Faust. Just make it, babe. Make it…” Although the dancers repeat the same movement throughout this excerpt (which was approximately 15 minutes long), they change formations and each have solos while the others stand in the background. Jessica Lee Keller is absolutely riveting here. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out what it is about her movement quality that makes her stand out, but she is beautiful to watch.
The layered choreography of George and Zalman is also evident in Anaphaza (1993), the most memorable and thrilling section of Decadance. The dancers, seated in a semicircle of chairs, repeat sharp, high-energy movement that accumulates as the music progresses. Naharin uses an electric version of “Ehad Mi Yodea” (a traditional Passover song) that he and the Tractor’s Revenge arranged. The most striking aspect of this excerpt is the repeated “wave” that the dancers complete as they fling themselves from their chairs, with their arms overhead, and collapse to the floor. As the piece progresses, they strip themselves of their black shoes, pants, and jackets, until they’re only wearing gray briefs and tank tops.
Decadance gives the dancers many solos and opportunities to show themselves as individuals, but it is clearly an ensemble piece, as the dancers often move in unity. There are moments of tenderness and intimacy in the duets, as well as moments of sadness and pain throughout, but Decadence is satisfyingly optimistic and refreshing. These qualities would certainly not be so apparent if it weren’t for the Cedar Lake dancers’ willingness to fully commit themselves to Naharin’s choreography and vision. They dance with incredible intensity and physical prowess, and always look in command and control of the enormous stage. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do in April’s Glassy Essence.
Read more about Naharin, his movement language called Gaga, and the three months of rehearsals that Naharin had with Cedar Lake’s dancers to prepare them for Decadance here.
(All photos by Paul B Goode, courtesy of Cedar Lake)