Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London, UK; September 27, 2013

Stuart Sweeney

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in'Ten Duets on the Theme of a Rescue'. Photo © Sharen Bradford

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in ‘Ten Duets on the Theme of a Rescue’.
Photo © Sharen Bradford

It’s only a year since Cedar Lake first performed at Sadler’s Wells, but it’s understandable that the theatre’s Artistic Director, Alistair Spalding, was keen to have them back so soon. With fine dancers and a carefully constructed, eclectic programme, they provided another exhilarating evening of dance.After dancing with Ballett Frankfurt, Canadian Crystal Pite has become one of the most sought after North American choreographers. Her “Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue” provided emotional intensity sombrely lit by spot lights forming an arc on three sides of the stage. The work opens with a combative duet for two men, but the majority of scenes are at a slow pace illustrating varying facets of relationships, but with a melancholy that made me think of “break-up” rather than “rescue.” In one memorable short episode, a woman slowly moves across the stage while a man frantically tries to engage her attention. But when he achieves his goal he is exhausted with nothing left to give, and sadly she disengages his hand and moves away. Lasting less than 20 minutes, in “Ten Duets” Pite provides distinctive movement underpinning the relationships. It’s a work I hope to see again to dig deeper into its rich textures.

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in Jiri Kylian's 'Indigo Rose'. Photo © Jane Hobson

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in Jiri Kylian’s ‘Indigo Rose’.
Photo © Jane Hobson

Jiri Kylian’s “Indigo Rose” opened the programme. It’s one of many works in the company repertory created by European choreographers. In a post-show talk, Interim Artistic Director, Alexandra Daminani, explained that this was a deliberate policy to throw a spotlight on high quality work that was not often seen in the USA. If you hadn’t seen “Indigo Rose” before, you might guess from its speed and humour, created to show off the talents of exceptional young dancers that it was made for Nederland Dans Theater 2. Cedar Lake’s dancers accepted the work’s challenges gleefully. The opening section shows one, then two and finally three guys zipping round the stage, jigging on the spot, allowing a balancing partner to fall to the floor. Energy pours off the stage. There are slower sections with couples able to show their lyrical skills to baroque music and another faster episode with a billowing sail running diagonally across the stage and providing a fertile source for shadow play and abrupt exits and entrances. However, I have two caveats: the finale shows us short videos of the heads and torsos of the artists while the dancers themselves are stationary – it just seemed a shame not to see more of the impressive cast in action; and while all the sections up to the finale are arresting, I didn’t see how they fitted together to make a whole.

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in  Jo Strømgren’s 'Necessity Again'. Photo © Jane Hobson

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in Jo Strømgren’s ‘Necessity Again’.
Photo © Jane Hobson 2

Finally came Jo Strømgren’s “Necessity Again”. For his second commission for the company, he was asked specifically for a closing piece and came up trumps with a delicious juxtaposition of two aspects of French life: Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction and the jollity of Charles Aznavour’s love songs. Strømgren is also a theatre director and he brings that experience to his set design featuring hundreds of sheets of paper including three clotheslines with attached papers at the back of the stage. We hear Derrida’s voice defending the process of deconstruction “even when things are good”, as the process is a “necessity.” Strømgren’s clearly disagrees and describes “Necessity Again” as “…a homage to the free space between the words…”. The performers, dressed in everyday clothes, appear worried and frustrated by the philosophical seminar, but spring to life for Aznavour. Strømgren choreographs in a mix of show-biz and contemporary styles, complementing the light songs, and with a fine sense of space, movement, props and humour which is always eye-catching.  As papers and dancers flew, a big grin covered my face the whole time.

Come back soon, Cedar Lake.