Birdies, streetlights and doors, oh my

There are many words to describe what one takes from watching Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet – I won’t list them, but suffice it to say this was the kind of performance that left me thinking about it for hours afterward. And, when one watches the best of an art form, it is hard to transcribe what one sees into another form– in this case, in the writing about it. Jo Strømgren’s ‘Sunday, Again’ is described as a piece that ‘tries to reflect the diversity in Johann Sebastian Bach’s music’. It is a series of duets among other things, with abstract movement patterns set to a post modern backdrop of a game of badminton, bent racket and all. The true beauty in this work is not even in the duets themselves, but in the dancing that is happening in the background onstage. The duets are gorgeous, lyrical, and often border on violent movement - Strømgren stated that ‘Sunday, Again’ “thematically treats the domestic jungle of luxury problems and gender frictions.” The luxury Strømgren refers to is reflected in the leisure of the game, the light swirling movements and lifts, all framed by the white costumes onstage (the stage itself is brightly light). And white is a significant colour here, as it contrasts the dark moments that happen in this work, as well as the black net that appears (both as a reference to the game and to those seemingly caught in tense relationships). There is visible tension (in contrast to the net with no tension), and the movement of the duets is sort of a push-pull scenario into the relationship of the characters being formed in the duets.

Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite’s “Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue” is set on a dark stage. The movement in these duets are less flowing and more isolated, and the choreography plays with different levels – at times the dancers are standing, other times the dancers are nearly crawling. At one point, a dancer controls one of the lights, illuminating the other performers onstage, which is quite effective. “Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue” actually seemed to go by very fast, as I was absorbed in the world Pite created onstage. The movement, the mood lighting, and the performances combined into a mesmerizing and haunting tableau of an underground zone where the rescuer and the rescued were seemingly blurred together.

Didy Veldman’s “frame of view” literally opened doors for the audience! As an investigation of physical movement and how that movement might manifest itself in the human body, it was spot on in terms of creating an accessible work with humour and irony. The three doors onstage opened to a range of experiences in terms of physicality – there were dark moments, funny moments, as well as a particularly creepy moment with the impression of a face and hands in what turned out to be a door made out of a pliable substance. The sound of doors opening and closing added another layer to an already musical work – there were many different types of music used in different segments of Veldman’s work. A particularly moving section was danced to the song “Ne me quitte pas”, in which the dancer moved and was moved by single table and a single chair, in all possible ways. It seemed like both a meditation on the loneliness one might feel being in a room alone, and also an exploration of how many different ways one can express themselves with a table and a chair. “frame of view” also included a party where a man is both literally and metaphorically locked out, but he did use his confetti for the occasion in other ways onstage.

Possibly the highlight of the festival, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet graced the Calgary stage with its Canadian premiere of these exquisite works. Bravo!