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Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet Breaks All Rules and Leaves Dallas Dancing

Photos courtesy of Sharen Bradford (The Dancing Image)

Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is the Artistic Director and Choreographer of DGDG: Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. She also serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble.

A few days later, and I’m still speechless. That’s the power of good dance. Now, I hate to use such an empty term, but what I had the privilege of witnessing Saturday night at the Winspear Opera House was just that – good dance. Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet flipped the traditional notion of what performance is and gave us a gift; a gift that keeps on giving, as I can’t get the images and movement that they presented out of my head.

Luckily, I have photographs and video to hold me over until the next time Cedar Lake comes to town (hint, hint, TITAS). Yes, unlike any other show at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, or really any dance show in the area, you were allowed, and encouraged, to take photographs and video – just no flash as it can disorient the dancers and other audience members.

The unorthodoxy continued with the staging of the piece. Smack in the center of the black box space known as Hammon Hall (a multiple purpose space located inside the Performing Arts Center), was a 20-foot-long white table with benches tucked underneath. Running along two sides of the room were panels of black marley dance floor while in one corner sat a six-foot-tall box. Hung from the ceiling were black ropes, metal scaffolding stood erect overlooking the table, and no seats were allowed.

Artistic Director Benoit Swan Pouffer’s intention was to create a gallery-like environment that placed the audience in the dance. In fact, the audience became the dance. We all moved around the room searching for each hidden nugget of movement, as the dancers would collect themselves into duets and trios utilizing each platform created for them. Everywhere you looked, there was a dancer. The dialogue created an intense pas de deux that had us all fighting for the best position. As the dancers moved in and out of each other executing Pouffer’s intricate, beautiful and athletic choreography (which showed his exquisite training from Alvin Ailey), the audience mimicked them. I found myself shuffling my way around my peers to get a better view and to involve myself in this surreal world.

For half-an-hour, I became a part of Pouffer’s Last Supper-esque scene as his band of merry dancers continuously oozed throughout the space, appearing in front of me, behind me, underneath me, above me, and even outside. At one point, the lights went out and the dancers rushed around knocking into us and one even pushed me out of the way to launch herself onto the table and join her fellow dancers in a feast of staccato movement.

We were further propelled into the surreal landscape with videos created by Adam Larsen. They utilized classic al frescos, text and the dancers in bizarre situations – one shocking moment occurred when a man’s face appeared stretch to his ears by a metal mouth guard in a permanent wide smile. It was weird and disturbing, and then all too real when the dancers appeared in front of me wearing the same facial jewelry. Then “La Vie en Rose” began to play and they frolicked around in a dizzy flirtation with each other and us. I’ve never felt so wonderfully violated.

And so inspired. The imaginative lighting design by Jim French, the fanciful costumes of Nancy Haeyung Bea, and the assembly of classical music and original compositions by Stefano Zazzera showed how wonderful the collaborative process can be. Without each element, the performance would have been good, but their symbiotic relationship made it great.

Cedar Lake was only here for one night, but the Dallas dance scene has been changed by its presence. The dancers’ energy, their innovation, and their passion for dance and performing is something that we can all appreciate and desire. As a choreographer, I can’t wait to get back into the studio and start creating myself.

If you missed the show, check out the numerous videos taken by TheaterJones, or go take in The Adjustment Bureau at your local movie theater. Emily Blunt plays a Cedar Lake dancer who is pursued by Matt Damon. An action flick with dance and romance, a hit for both the guys and the girls!