A spirit of experimentation can and does exist in a well-appointed establishment. Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet is proof. This is unique, given the difficulty of the dance artist’s life that is the norm in this country.
The challenging May 31st performance at the company’s Chelsea space was the second installment of artistic director Benoit-Swan Puffer’s “Dream Collaborations.” Nicolo Fonte and Emily Molnar were invited to join Swan in a triple bill of new works on the dream theme. Each use stark, dramatic lighting, and simple décor that blends in with the architecture. In the pieces, which were first shown in January, the choreographers share ideas with the aim of creating a cohesive evening, but Swan’s “Between Here and Now” looked the most at home.
In this second collaboration some the stumbling blocks were removed, like the attempt to have one piece run into another without breaks.
Canadian Molnar set “4 Flights Down” on four Cast Figures and ten Shadows. Knock-kneed plies and teetering bowlegged walks are juxtaposed with virtuosity. The amazing Roderick George’s energized spins, rolls, commandeer with total refinement. Two male Shadows join him in a bouyant trio. Christopher Adams’s awesome solo personifies the dream concept and this, the evening’s final image, leaves us with the lasting impression. He sways and flicks his fingers, drawing us mesmerized into his somnambulistic world. In the dim lighting though, I could barely make him out. Disturbing Kleigs glared out into the audience fracturing the tableaux of fast moving figures. This was a hellish journey. A bad dream but not a bad dance.
In each offering, the dancers are set against the exposed brick wall of the theater, almost blending in. Swan’s begins with a vision scene in which Jubal Battisti languishes in an alcove above. He drops down on a knotted rope. Jessica Lee Keller and Jason Kittleberger latch on to the wall, posing like figures in relief. (Rick Sordelet is credited with stunt coordination). All this rope swinging may sound like jungle play, but Battisti in diaphanous boy-cut unitard with short-sleeves and the women in loopy, shaggy white tutus—dispel the Tarzan/monkey image.
Each costume is a different and fascinating design of Junghyun Georgia Lee. The clunky, heavy movement and Jolene C. Baldini’s ferocity is anomalous with ballerinas on point. Adam Larsen projects cryptic pictograms and a (French?) phrase on the white floor.
“Between” suggests a collision of the romantic and cave eras. It’s full of suspense set to weird vocals and pounding drums in Stefano Zazzera’s music “Skomposto for a Dream.” “Between” is a fitful dream that subsumes.
Brooklyn-born Fonte danced for Nacho Duato in Spain for six years, choreographed for Duato’s Compañia and then others, winning a Choo San Goh award. He contributes “Lasting Imprint.” It is actually Dream Collaboration’s curtain-raiser.
In fact there are no curtains. The dancers enter in front of the stage; they might be mistaken for latecomers but for their polish and presence. The sprung platform is noisy and slippery and they worked with it with varying success.
Fonte’s piece starts and ends in a silence that feels as deafening as the blaring Steve Reich “Triple Quartet” in the middle. The costumes are just as blunt. In “Lasting Imprint’s” unifying narrative, Kittelberger covers himself with white paint and then maps his touch on Jessica Coleman Scott’s body. Mixed with sweat, it’s erotic in a ghostly sort of way. I’m not convinced of the inevitability of this story, but the sweat is a revelation, its presence in the spectacle an affirmation of dance.
Kittelberger lifts the limber Scott, then drops her. She nudges his mass with an extended toe. This kind of negotiation—Nickemil Concepcion’s breathtaking dancing in duets with Heather Hamilton—these are not rest-in-peace interpretations of the nocturnal theme. If a strange kind of poetry is achieved, the complex patterns of movement and superb dancing are the stuff of dreams.