“Violet Kid,” “Annonciation,” “Grace Engine”
The Joyce Theater
New York, NY
May 15, 2012
By Carol Pardo
Copyright ©2012 by Carol Pardo
Cedar Lake has made a name—and a place—for itself in the New York dance scene by presenting works by choreographers who are familiar names in Europe, but less well known on this side of the Atlantic. This program included works by Hofesh Shechter, an Israeli who began his career with the Batsheva Dance Company and now has his own troupe in London, Angelin Preljocaj who works out of Aix-en-Provence and Canadian-born Crystal Pite, formerly a dancer under William Forsythe with Ballett Frankfurt and now head of Kidd Pivot. Each of them has assembled an individual movement language combining—in various proportions—ballet, modern dance, and more recent popular styles.
“Violet Kid”is an all-but-Gesamtkunstwerk with music, choreography, and in part, costumes and lighting by Hofesh Shechter. The dance is a study of the group as tribe, as herd. But over its thirty-three minutes, one or another member of the cast of fourteen breaks free. Strength in numbers gives way, if only momentarily, to individual freedom. The group is not a comforting, safe nest. It ferments violence; the lilt of a jig is hemmed in by a marching step. Encounters owe much to wrestling. In one sequence, couples partner each other by holding on to necks in a stranglehold. Yet this community never splinters out of control, for it is often brought to heel, either by passages of unison work, or by being called to order at the front of the stage by standing in a row in passé. Standing there on one leg, rather than two, accentuates each person’s vulnerability and dependence on others to keep going. But asserting that these shifts constitute “a glimpse into the essence of existence” (to quote the program note) is perhaps overstating the case.
In “Annonciation” Preljocaj takes as his subject the meeting of the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, at which he announces that she has been selected to bear the baby Jesus and will become the mother of God. Harumi Terayama is a thoroughly modern Mary, dressed in a short blue tunic and occupying a minimalist space furnished with a black L-shaped bench and a red carpet. Preljocaj practices a little gender bending; Gabriel is danced by a woman. Acacia Schachte is an equally modern tiger mom of a Gabriel, by turns empathetic and pushy, and possibly interested in Mary for herself. The two share a long kiss on the mouth and an overly long unison duet. The choreographer is at his best empathizing with and conveying Mary’s varying reactions to such momentous news: modesty, incredulity, terror, denial, rebellion. In his program note Preljocaj connects the Annunciation with changes in the body, the dancer’s instrument, linking means and content in a way that might not immediately come to mind.
Crystal Pite’s “Grace Engine” intends to explore (I think) the effects of time as an agent of pressure and inevitability on the human experience. But what is most obvious here are the formal similarities to the two other works on the program. It is about as long as “Violet Kid” and uses a similar number of dancers. Like that work, it pits the few against the many, hounded not by violence but by anxiety. Like “Annonciation,” it ends with a pas de deux for two women. The dancers’ hip weekend wear of “Violet Kid” is here replaced with more formal, but equally current clothing ready to go from the cubicle to the club. It would be useful to see “Grace Engine” on a different program; here it was swamped by context.