Lights up on a single male dancer standing still, head tipped back, gazing at the sky. In stylized jeans and a tight t-shirt, he could be almost anyone. A moment later, he’s bobbing and weaving with the lithe attentiveness of boxer.
As danced by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Jiří Kylián’s “Indigo Rose” (1998) is a delightful series of just such juxtapositions: rapidity and arrest, looseness and control. Like all of Kylián’s work, the dance relies on an intricate, highly refined movement vocabulary performed with stunning precision; a challenge Cedar Lake meets with robust confidence. Here more than other works from his oeuvre, a current of youthful exuberance provides a pleasing contrast. A single wire bisects the space on a diagonal; at one point it serves as a curtain rod, and the dancers’ bodies cast shadows against a billowing white sheet.
Though it’s not a long work, it is decadent; intermission serves as a welcome palette cleanser. Crystal Pite’s “Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue” follows. Pite shares Kylián’s flair for specificity, but departs completely in tone. Low lights and a cinematic score by Cliff Martinez enhance the somber intimacy of these duets, each of which depicts a struggle of some kind. In one, a woman turns her back to her male partner and begins an achingly slow departure, leaving one arm outstretched in his direction. Bent double at the waist, he tries to run after her, but seems caught in a powerful headwind and makes no progress. Throughout this quintet, the dancers focus on each other is intent to the point of reverence. Sometimes the music drops away and the dancers continue in a complete hush that only intensifies the lush emotional landscape.
If Kylián and Pite present two very different atmospheres, Jo Strømgren’s offering is an even more dramatic departure. “Necessity, Again” is a comic work of physical theater. The costumes conjure a 1950s workplace: up-dos, tea length skirts, and skinny ties. Sonically, things swing from archival recordings of Jacques Derrida stammering his way through a mind-numbing philosophy lecture in broken English (occasionally, one of the dancers passes out from apparent boredom) and segments of schmaltzy songs from French crooner Charles Aznavour. Here, the dancers of Cedar Lake have a chance to demonstrate their theatrical skills. One duet consists of a man whose body follows the command of his vibrating pelvis, and the woman he repels. As the piece builds to its frenetic conclusion, it’s hard to maintain focus; easier to let go and embrace the chaos of bounding bodies and sheaves of paper that litter the stage as the curtain falls.