Adelaide Festival: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet – Mixed Rep and Orbo Novo

Mixed Rep. Photo by Sharen Bradford, Adelaide Festival of Arts
Mixed Rep. Photo by Sharen Bradford, Adelaide Festival of Arts

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet Company comes to the 2015 Adelaide Festival of Arts with a big reputation. It needs to be said that reputation is thoroughly deserved.

The company presents two major works for the Festival. First, Mixed Rep which includes 3 works (Indigo Rose, Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue and Violet Kid) choreographed by Jiří Kylián, Crystal Pite and Hofesh Shechter respectively with Shechter scoring his own music. The second, a full-length work entitled Orbo Novo (loosely Spanish for ‘New World’), choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to music written by Szymon Brzóska.

Mixed Rep

Indigo Rose is met with great expectations and a clearly excited audience but the choreography doesn’t quite deliver. The audience is eagerly engaged, expecting ‘something’ to happen but that ‘something’ doesn’t eventuate. Instead the work relies too heavily on gimmicks (staging and colourful costumes) and some truly wonderful dancers to cover the lack of an underlying finality. Indigo Rose was written to explore “the transient nature of youth and human relationships” and to embody unattainable ideals such as “perfection”, which may go some way in explaining its lack of ultimate audience satisfaction. The dancing is frenetic, playfully comic and at times clearly sexual but the choreography just doesn’t seem to reach a final destination.

[pull_left]Mixed Rep is a progression of intensity that received a justifiably enthusiastic standing ovation[/pull_left]

Following an interval the audience is quietly introduced to Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue. This work draws its audience in from its beginning. While there doesn’t seem to be a definitively linear narrative, Pite’s choreography is astonishingly beautiful with the dancers delivering highly evocative duets, which draw out feelings of love, desperation, manipulation and dependence performed within Jim French’s effectual lighting design – by the end he has an arc of 16 lights on stage accentuating the work’s expression with a sense of genuine wisdom. Interestingly the music is taken from Cliff Martinez’ soundtrack for the science fiction film Solaris. A line from the film goes “there are no answers, only choices” and that seems the dominant philosophy of this work as the duets imply many people need rescuing from themselves and each other.

The existential Violet Kid completes Mixed Rep. Politics, rage, terror and horror exudes from this unmistakable examination of human struggle. Hofesh Shechter’s own voice over asks, “Do I talk too much? Maybe if I didn’t talk so much, I’d have more friends” and the dancers begin a tribal vignette before moving on to something more industrial and finally moody without ever leaving the primitive behind.

Ultimately, Mixed Rep is a progression of intensity that received a justifiably enthusiastic standing ovation.


Orbo Novo

Orbo Novo. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, Adelaide Festival of Arts
Orbo Novo. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, Adelaide Festival of Arts

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s full-length (77 min) work is based on Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s memoir My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, written following her recovery from a stroke. Cherkaoui explains the work “I see it not so much as choosing hope, but more as hoping for the ability and insight to choose. Or to quote Jill Bolte Taylor, ‘I believe, that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right brain hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world, and the more peaceful our planet will be, and I thought that was an idea worth spreading’”.

[pull_left]Cedar Lake defines the term ‘grace’[/pull_left]

Cherkaoui explores many ideas including freedom, contamination, perspective, loneliness and enlightenment and he uses direct quotes from Taylor’s text in voice-overs and not without some very effectve comedy. Lesser Dance companies often get the voice-over terribly wrong – they are obvious and didactic, treating their audience like idiots. Cedar Lake don’t fail themselves in either Mixed Rep or Orbo Novo as the voice-over opens the work up to a greater understanding and appreciation which triggered a palpable enjoyment in its audience.

A lattice-work set moves together, apart and around the stage, resembling at different times a human mind, a cage, a pagoda, the brig in a ship’s hull or simply that lonely place – the all too human self. At times the dancing is abrupt then fluid and solos give way to ensemble movements, all of which, in the hands of Cedar Lake, defines the term ‘grace’.

Expressionist art like expressionist dance was heavily developed in the 20th century to soothe the broken minds of victims of war. Cedar Lake seeks to encourage an enquiring mind and in Orbo Novo‘s own way – to heal. All in all, leaving this work you’ll feel better than when you arrived.


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