Cedar Lake presented five works over the past two weeks at The Joyce Theater – undoubtedly a grueling workout for the company’s fifteen dancers. They were in top form, and it’s always a pleasure to watch how seamlessly this exceptional group of dancers can move. What the season offered in terms of technical virtuosity, it lacked in variety. The five choreographers covered a lot of ground in terms of themes, but with the exception of Hofesh Shechter’s challenging piece The Fools, the movement in the repertoire all looked fairly similar. Or perhaps the dancers interpreted it in a non-varied way.
Jo Stromgren’s 2008 work Sunday, Again, shown on both programs, examines dysfunctional relationships and gender friction during a Sunday afternoon of badminton. Set to Bach’s lively Jesu, meine Freude, several duets were interspersed with clusters of dancers rushing about the stage with their badminton gear. Jason Kittelberger’s rudeness bubbled to the surface in his duet with Acacia Schachte, in which he flung her haphazardly over his shoulder only to abruptly drop her to the floor. Unwanted girl on girl aggression turned out to be a search for a birdie, and Golan Yosef, throwing a badminton net to the floor with exasperation, was unaware of a larger problem in his tense relationship with an anguished Ebony Williams. The various episodes came together in a fast-moving, men-versus-women game where whispers turned into full-volume shouts. The witty moments within this game only briefly lightened the tension. And as Stromgren’s program note explained, “Leisure time is not good for certain types of relationships.”
Human stories were also evident in Didy Veldman’s 2009 work frame of view, but they seemed to have lost their edge since the world premiere. Using irony and humor, the dancers explored a range of emotions and desires as they moved in and out of a room framed by three yellow doors. Unfortunately, many of the interactions fell flat. Williams’s solo with a desk and chair lacked the melodrama and distress that Ana Maria-Lucaciu conveyed when she portrayed this role at the premiere in 2009.
In Jacopo Godani’s 2009 work Unit in Reaction, three men and three women in stretchy rust-colored attire slithered across the floor, morphing collectively into various shapes. The dancers showed admirable fluidity and speed, but the piece itself was uninspiring. Alexander Ekman’s Hubbub, which premiered in early October in North Carolina, was a clever examination of “performance ritual”. A haughty voice narrated the dancers’ movement and suggested what we, the audience, should notice. This grew rather irritating, although that was probably the point. Harumi Terayama and Nickemil Concepcion’s duet, in which their voiceovers reveal what they’re thinking, was intriguing. Don’t all audiences wonder, at some point, what’s going on in the performers’ heads?
Hofesh Shechter is a London-based choreographer who made waves at Fall for Dance in 2008. For Cedar Lake he re-worked The Fools, originally made for Bern Ballet in 2009. In a foggy, menacing atmosphere, eight dancers wearing black military attire portrayed Shadows. To a frenetic drum score created by Shechter, they flailed about and then suddenly froze in front of their chairs. Seven other dancers, first in underwear and later in khaki pants and plaid tops, emerged whenever the Shadows disappeared into the background. Hunched over, with their fingers in awkward claw shapes, they crept about the stage to a delicate piano score, going about their day as if in a trance. Whenever the harsh percussion and Shadows re-surfaced, the Fools scattered. Shechter created an intriguing wave of energy between the Fools and darker, ominous Shadows as they alternately rose to the surface. The piece was a bit too long and the sequences of movement repetitive, but The Fools seemed to push the dancers into new territory, which was more than welcome during this mostly tame season.