For their UK debut, New York’s Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet lived up to their advance reputation by bringing a uniformly fabulous group of dancers and a very mixed bill of new works by young non-Americans: the British-based Israeli Hofesh Shechter, Sweden’s Alexander Ekman, and the Canadian Crystal Pite, formerly of the Frankfurt Ballet. Yet the pieces shared a common trait: each dissociated sound, light and action, so that the dancers appeared as just one medium among several.
Shechter’s Violet Kid is built on a series of musical crescendos, gloomy lighting fitfully illuminating shifty zones for the 14 dancers to swerve around, huddle into or hurtle across. Marshalled into Shechter’s trademark groupings – fissive clusters, ragged squadrons – and using his style of wolfish lopes, rushes, tics and tremors, the scruffily dressed figures are not individuals but creatures caught between animal drives and tribal identities – very Lord of the Flies. It’s powerful, but the material seems overextended.
Ekman’s Tuplet, by contrast, is short and sweetly cartoonish. It starts with silent film of a chattering mouth and tapping hands. The six dancers take up the “body talk” theme by jigging about as if space itself were a drum kit. One man wriggles in comic synch to a beat-boxy voiceover. They all line up, reacting clownishly to a scratch tape of their names being called, as if their whole bodies were sound receptors. Finally, there is more silent film, showing jazz musicians, lindy-hoppers, people clapping happily – and we begin, happily, to sense that miraculous synergy between music, our bodies and our being.
Pite’s Grace Engine is dance as film noir, but with its scenes spliced, paused, replayed and panned. Suited figures freeze in mid-run; a crowd races past a bright bank of lights, to a locomotive chug; echoing footsteps echo a dancer’s footsteps; a stylised fugitive slides and staggers; two women tangle together like wounded souls. Dense with stimulating ideas and imagery, the piece is tantalising, and not quite fully focused.