Most of us don’t have the opportunity to be in Beijing for the Olympics, but Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s new work – The Copier, by Jill Johnson – might satisfy the interests of at least a few fans. The company’s dancers are essentially world-class athletes, capable of doing things most of us can’t even dream of. Like Olympians, they train and perform at an unbelievable level, their technique and musculature superb. These are easily observed as you can sit or stand very close as they hurtle at you or lock a pose mere inches away.
The Copier is part of Cedar Lake’s Installation Series, an innovative (for New York), less formal type of performance where the audience members are not seated in fixed positions, but may roam around the T-shaped platform stage, or sit on the floor or small risers. We became a permeable curtain through which the dancers moved. (New Yorkers seem to have problems that stem from tight real estate – some obstinate standers refused to yield their excellent positions to the poor dancers, who practically had to push them out of the way. But I guess that’s part of the intrigue.)
Pre-show, the dancers warmed up onstage, greeted us, or chatted with one another. A photocopier worked in the upstage wall niche as shredded paper blew into the theater, accompanied by clicking and whirring noises (score by David Poe). When the roughly half-hour performance began, white light suffused the space, and white wall-mounted tubes lit up (designed by Jim French). Additional white lights, aimed upward and fixed to trusses, mimicked a copier by sliding laterally, repeatedly – a great visual punchline, although the overarching theme of copying didn’t come across strongly in the dance. Video samples are posted on Cedar Lake’s site.
Johnson performed with William Forsythe at Ballett Frankfurt. Her style shows it: thrusting shoulder and hip joints, extroverted arms, stiff legs, socked feet. The dancers moved through their own combinations, and then would suddenly fall into sync. They lined up at the edge of the platform, peering to the side as if waiting for a subway. Time slowed in a few solos and duets, building to a club-like ensemble fervor. Marina Mascarell and Jon Bond, in particular, seemed to plunge deeply into Johnson’s choreography. Poe’s score ranged from melodic piano lines to everyday noises like birdsong and traffic. And Stephen Galloway (another Forsythian) designed the sheer, multi-hued, textured costumes.
The installation format is appealing, although what might seem radical or avant-garde in actuality is pretty populist. Not only do you have a different, closer perspective where you don’t have to sit still, the short length (reflected in a relatively modest ticket price of $20) is also welcome amidst the more common two hour-plus evening. Perfect for an adrenaline shot of dance on a balmy summer eve, and way closer than Beijing. But hurry, it ends Saturday, Aug. 23.
Photo by Julieta Cervantes. Dancers pictured: Jubal Batisti, Jason Kittelberger, and Acacia Schachte