Dd Response: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet at the Joyce Theater
Jiri Kylian’s Indigo Rose was a refreshing and invigorating start to the evening. A thin wire descended diagonally across the stage, which was illuminated with crisp, white light. Four male dancers entered in turn, each one performing a speedy and energetic solo. These solos evolved into a quartet that paired spirited releases of the head, chest, and upper body with multiple, sharp directional changes. The dancers’ movements gave an impression of escape and abandon—two themes that reflect Kylian’s aim for Indigo Rose to celebrate youthful vitality.
An elegant, delicate, and nuanced pas de deux section followed—quintessential Kylian that incorporated innovative, weight-sharing techniques. Then, an enormous triangle of white fabric sailed across the suddenly darkened stage. Streams of light beamed onto the fabric, and the dancers’ silhouettes moved through absurd, illogical, and sometimes crude scenarios. The dancers became still, the lights dimmed, and Indigo Rose drew to a close as moving images of the dancers’ faces were projected onto raised screen.
I was especially pleased that Indigo Rose intentionally incorporated humor. Silliness befits a dance work that strives to give some representation of youths and youthfulness. And, further, it is a welcome relief when a concert dance audience laughs. This rarely happens, so it’s remarkable that Kylilan’s work inspired peals of laughter multiple times throughout the dance.
Crystal Pite’s Ten Duets on the Theme of Rescue was the second piece performed, and by far the most stunning. A semicircle of tall, standing lamps warmed an otherwise dark and shadowy stage on which various pairs of dancers moved through intimate, poignant duets. Most of these duets were intricate partnering sequences seamlessly executed by quietly meditative dancers. When not engaged in a duet, the dancers sometimes arranged and rearranged the lamps’ positions.
One moment of this piece was particularly remarkable. In it, a dancer stage right was trying to run offstage, his straight arms pressed against either side of his forward-tilting torso. Though he moved vigorously, he did not travel, each of his steps landing in just about the same place from which it began.
Eventually, he began to move toward stage right, all the while continuing the restrained motion. As he exited, a female dancer entered from stage left. With her left arm extended straight behind her, her left hand fully outstretched, and her fingers splayed, she lunged forward across the stage, her steps heavy and labored. Making slow but deliberate progress, she continued her journey as another male dancer entered behind her, running just as the first running dancer had. These overlapping movement vignettes created a visual effect that was both heart-wrenching and witty, perhaps because I ascribed so many dramatic and romantic meanings to the section.
Pite’s work finished with a simple, bittersweet image—two dancers, hands linked and heads bowed, guiding one another toward the upstage left corner.
The evening ended with Horizons, a world premiere by Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis. The dancers wore costumes that resembled the uniforms of superheroes or Star Trek characters. Perhaps this choice was a reference to strength, conquest, and exploration. But, the interpretation seems forced to me, so it’s hard to say for sure.
Horizons began with four men performing simultaneous solos. Every few minutes, they paused together in the downstage left corner of the stage, standing still with splayed limbs outstretched. Shortly after, they abandoned this position to first establish a huddle and then returned to their respective solos. All the while, a recording of a man discussing relaxation techniques played. Though this section’s movement was mentally stimulating, the audio accompaniment was distracting, and so lessened the section’s overall impact.
Next, small groups of women and men quickly ran, leaped, and turned across the stage, their straight arms slicing and swiping the space around them all the while. Their movements simulating little fighter jets, they sped around until one dancer remained, crouching downstage. Three men reentered and draped a large, red rectangular piece of fabric over her. On one end of the fabric stood another dancer who stood in a static, angular position. The crouching woman wriggled out from under the blanket, unceremoniously placed herself next to the dancer on the fabric, and began pumping her arms and knees, As the lights brightened and the music quickened, the second joined her, and the two moved through unison and contrasting rhythmic patterns. They ran offstage, another pair of dancers replaced, and a series of brief, high-energy duets on the red fabric followed.
Then came a drastic shift in energy, intention, and overall aesthetic. Two dancers wearing, flowing, flesh-colored costumes danced a final duet comprised of slow, sensual, and highly dramatic movements. Many times throughout the duet they would reach over to touch or hold one another’s faces. Water began to fall around and on the dancers, at first only sprinkling, but then progressing to a steady stream of raindrops. As the intensity with which the dancers moved grew, so did the speed of the raindrops until, eventually, the soaked dancers stood on the red carpet.
The radical compositional changes that Foniadakis introduced in final moments of the work ignored Horizons’ already-established mood, vocabulary, and themes. Rather than making a lasting impact, the conclusion distracted the viewer from the work being concluded. As a result, Horizons ended up being confusing, convoluted, and subsequently incoherent. It was an odd and largely unsettling close to an otherwise enjoyable evening of virtuosity and artistry.