Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, an ever-popular company out of New York, is no stranger to popular culture: Emily Blunt was cast as a company dancer in The Adjustment Bureau. But its repertoire is at least high-minded in intent, as seen in a one-night performance Wednesday night, presented by White Bird, that featured three works by European choreographers.
The first, Violet Kid by Hofesh Shechter, is a piece for 14 dancers in street clothes. It opens with the dancers lined up on the lip of stage, Chorus Line-style, as a recorded voice speaks: “Do I talk too much? Maybe if I didn’t talk so much, I’d have more friends.” The dancers then break into sharp and ever-evolving formations, crouching and ambling about the stage. Lights go up and down, revealing different tableaus, all evoking some kind of organized riot, or at least the joie de vivre of rebellion. A score of mournful double bass and thumping electronica, in addition to the plumes of illuminated fog billowing from the wings, create an atmosphere both ominous and sad.
Tuplet, by Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman, was the crowd pleaser of the set (and, according to The Guardian, “cool, depthless and intermittently amusing”). Playing with rhythm, Ekman collaborated with the dancers’ impulses to use their bodies as percussive instruments. In a solo that prompted cheers from the crowd, Jon Bond danced silhouetted against a white screen, using pre-recorded rhythmic gibberish as a score. “Da-buh-da-bum—whoosh!” went the recording, as Bond’s body followed, ending with a spin. Later, five dancers joined him for a sort of coordinated handbell performance, except instead of handbells, they used their names and little bursts of movement. “Ebony...Williams,” said the dancer (who you can also see in Beyonce’s "Single Ladies" video), as she shifted her weight and waved her arm. The turns bounced along the line, ending with Bond, who had to snap out his name several times, to his feigned annoyance, until the spotlight went out.
The final piece, Grace Engine by Crystal Pite, features the entire company, now clad in dark suit jackets and backed by the noise and imagery of passing trains. Pite focuses on the human experience and the passage of time, and the piece, incidentally or not, has a very red-pill-blue-pill feel. Dancers cringe and crumple, while others stand stoically around them. Twice, a group abandons one of the dancers, her arm outstretched in anguish, alone on the stage. It ends, though, with a solemn duet between that abandoned soul and another woman. The show opened with a sort of uprising, and it ends with resolution.