Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet is having a bit of a moment these days, coming off of some big mainstream appearances. They were featured in the film The Adjustment Bureau, in which Emily Blunt played a dancer and company member of Cedar Lake. In the brief minutes in which she danced, partnered by Jason Kittelberger, she acquitted herself well. Truth be told, this was more believable than Matt Damon’s character taking the bus all the time, even if he was hunting her down.
The company also recently guested on “So You Think You Can Dance,” which draws about 6 million viewers—that’s approximately 12 million eyeballs. The appearance was a PR bonanza, but it drew a possibly uncomfortable parallel to the reigning style of dance on that show. Hard to define, but pick and choose from these words: contemporary, earnestly expressionistic, modern ballet, technically rigorous. The thwacked extensions, constantly writhing movement, and athletic bent suited the show’s tone perfectly. Artistic Director Benoit Swan Pouffer choreographed both of these appearances.
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s “So You Think You Can Dance” appearance:
These qualities were on view in 360º, a much smaller scale “installation” last week at the Cedar Lake studio featuring the dozens students who participated in this summer’s intensive program, plus a few of the regular company. Throughout a season, the company usually does one or several installations, the term they use for free-form events without traditional seating. Choreography is credited to Pouffer, Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (who did a major commission for the company last year), and dancers Harumi Terayama and Manuel Vignoulle.
Both of the headquarters’ two studios were put to use, with the dance beginning in the west room that normally houses ticketed performances. A few dancers were suspended in stretchy white slings, like squirmy Ernesto Neto sculptures, while others moved beneath them. The dancers led the audience into the adjacent studio, where a center stage was surrounded by five smaller platforms, some tilted, some raised. Movements begun on one platform were echoed across the room, or picked up by another group. If you didn’t move around (as was recommended) and stood in one place, the sightlines eventually shifted from obstructed to really good, and back again. The students performed fiercely, with some able to establish their stage characters in a short time. Don’t be surprised to see one or more in auditions for SYTYCD, or dancing with Cedar Lake, in the near future.