Above: Cedar Lake's Jon Bond
Wednesday July 30th, 2014 - I have always loved Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet's homespace on West 26th Street and I very much enjoyed this evening's presentation of Cedar Lab, a new adventure for the Company wherein the dancers create choreography on their colleagues. Tonight, works-in-progress by Jon Bond, Navarra Novy-Williams, Matthew Rich, Joaquim de Santana and Vânia Doutel Vaz were presented.
Earlier this month I stopped in at a rehearsal of two of the works, those created by Navarra and Vânia, so I had a sampling of tonight's programme. The Cedar Lake dancers are among Gotham's most talented and alluring, and this opportunity for five of them to spread their choreographic wings did indeed make for a stimulating evening. A quote from dancer/choreographer Navarra Novy-Williams set the tone for this new initiative: "We explored a lot, and I'm certain we are still exploring."
The only drawback to my enjoyment of the evening was that I was seated in the back row which, despite being on risers, caused my view of anything happening on the floor to be cut off by the rows of spectators in the intervening space. Since most of the choreographers made use of floor time in their danceworks, this aspect of the presentation went for nought from my perspective.
The opening work set a very high standard for the evening in terms of choreography, music, production elements, and dancing. Joaquim de Santana presented his duet DISTANT SILENCE, set to Sigur Rós' "Fjögur Píanó" and "I Just wanted to Know" by Phillip Jack. The work opened with a brief film by Billy Bell in which the dancers - Jon Bond and Vânia Doutel Vaz - made a ghostly appearance. A large white drape is then torn down and Jon and Vânia appear in the flesh. They cross the space in a flow of gorgeously plastique moves, illuminating the music and choreography in a way that puts the viewer under a spell. Dancing in true sync or in partnered passages, Jon and Vânia were a compelling pair. Jon's solo, with Vânia doing a walk-about, underscored his status as one of the great movers in the modern danceworld. Vânia is a marvelous match for him: her solo - in the second 'movement', set to spoken word and mechanical music - was very finely wrought. Mr. de Santana knows his dancers well and employed their incredible gifts to the finest advantage. There were no bows after the individual works, but if there has been Jon, Vânia and Joaquim would have brought down the house.
Vânia was the next featured choreographer: her ensemble work THEM THERE was danced to an original score by Tom Sansky. The dancers wear simple white shirts and black briefs. One by one they step into the spotlight to pose and emote as their colleagues dance quietly in the background. Combining solo opportunities and in-sync ensemble passages, the overall effect was excellent though I wish I could have seen what was going on on the floor. Ebony Williams, that paragon of contemporary dance, was the last to step into the solo spotlight; she was soon engulfed by her fellow dancers.
I was dazzled by RESIDUAL REACTION, a film in which Matthew Rich combined his 'double-major' of dance and fashion, working with Billy Bell who directed and edited the work. A fabulous dance track from Nalepa and Flume sent the movie into orbit with incredible footage of Cedar Lake's sexy and spellbinding dancers. And they have never looked more sensuous: Nickemil Concepcion, Joseph Kudra, Navarra Novy-Williams, Guillaume Quéau, Ida Saki, Rachelle Scott, Madeline Wong, with guests Patrick Coker and Daphne Fernberger. The camera invades their privacy, lingering on their skin and muscle with provocative investigation as they move with seductive glamour to the music. Baby powder is an unexpected element, and later - dancing on a rooftop - we are enslaved by the emblematic gorgeousness of the Cedar Lake dancers. I hope this film will soon be available on the Company website, or on YouTube. It makes a super-enticing trailer. The moment it ended I wantd to watch it again.
Some audience members are summoned to the stage to observe MUSE, Navarra Novy-Williams' series of three solos, danced in turn by Acacia Schachte, Madeline Wong, and Rachelle Scott. Acacia, with her very personal mystique, snaps her fingers to turn on the spotlight for her solo which includes some very witty moves and covers the space fluently. Madeline, in a fanciful puff-skirt, dances to a big lyrical theme by Ennio Morricone, and then Rachelle displays powerful balance and control as she dances to "Moon River". Here, more than elsewere, my inability so see the floorwork of the dancers was especially disheartening. But enough of the flavour of Navarra's work emerged, and the music was particularly well-used.
Jon Bond produced a nightmarish work, THE DEVIL WAS ME, dealing with the aspects of sin - one of my favorite topics! Music by Murcof and Peter Broderick summoned excellent work from the dancers - those already mentioned above plus Billy Bell, Gwen Benjamin, Joaquim de Santana and Jin Young Won. The work begins with a deeply ominous theme, Rachelle Scott in the spotlight; later she will endure a satanic ritual performed on a table. The dark gathering of masked feral creatures is briefly relieved by a passage where the dancers appear in silhouette before a yellow-gold sunset. But the overall tone is sinister and sinful. The one thing that might have made this purgatorial work even more fascinating would have been to have Jon Bond dancing in it.
The house was packed, and when I emerged into the lovely summer evening light there was a long line of dance-lovers waiting to get in to the second show. This sort of initiative is a feather in Cedar Lake's cap, and I sincerely hope Cedar Lab becomes an annual event.