Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
ADF 2009, Durham Performing Art Center
June 25, 2009
Reviewed by Lewis Whittington
Ohad Naharin received the Samuel H. Scripps Award for lifetime achievement the 2009 American Dance Festival. He took the opportunity during his acceptance speech to tell the dancers in the audience to “get rid of the mirrors. “ That rebel spirit was definitely in play afterward during The Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet performance of ‘Decadance 2007’ a compilation of dance works Naharin created between 1985- 2007.
Dancers stand on the edge of the stage and glared like pissed off runway models (instead of an attempt at veiled contempt). They pump their arms, then freeze, with each dancer taking turns in furious solos only they could own at this speed. The line recedes to spatial black as a deSadean duet unfolds with a women in a corset backing away from a man begging her for something more than the missionary position.
Sensual thoughts were absent during ‘George and Zelman’ a study for five women performing to a recitation of a Charles Bukowski poem. Each plaintive line is repeated with a new word and dance move added to the end. The dancers shift the group formations so we see the bodies at different angles, perhaps avoiding any chance that the dancers could catch us yawning.
More to grab onto in ‘Black Milk’ five men naked to the waist in warrior garb are performing a ritual where they smear their bodies with paint. They fly around in staggered formation, executing explosive layouts and jumps until they reach such a frenzy they have conjured a woman on stilts who stalks onstage in a feathered Carnival drag.
Naharin’s use of repetition in ‘Anaphaza’ grabs you by the throat and keeps squeezing. The troupe is dressed in black suits with white shirts and seated in a wide communal crescent. The Hebrew song ’Ehad Mi Yodea’ is a concussive shock wave that seems to bust open each dancers‘ chest and throw their heads back as if imbued.
The house lights come up for ‘Zachacha‘ set to a disco version of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ with dancers picking audience members to join them onstage. Once assembled it segues into Dean Martin’s ’Sway’ with hilarious results. Dance sleights of hand or not, this is infectious fun.
There are more selections in the mix, but heady or silly, Naharin diced-up retrospective is dizzying but fresh in the hands of Cedar Lake dancers, who perform with drama, humor and even reverence to Naharin’s own stage conventions.