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“They are 32. They are young, driven and talented. During the past weeks they have had to confront their fears and weaknesses while immersing themselves in the professional dance world of Cedar Lake. (…) This evening is dedicated to them”.    – Alexandra Damiani

 

Last night I had the pleasure to witness the production of 360°, a performance by summer intensive students at Cedar Lake that is part choreographed dance work, part interactive installation. Audience members observe the dancers while standing and are invited to move freely around the space in which the artists are performing. I’m not going to lie- being a student performance I was expecting to see something endearing that I had already seen a thousand times. Add to my preconceptions the fact that contemporary dance is not my go-to genre as an audience member. But the show surprised me and I was sucked into the work as soon as I entered the space.

 

True to the title of the show, the audience was surrounded by dance: in addition to a central larger stage, three additional sets were added by the door, and above stage and below the main set. The performance featured original choreography by Jon Bond, Rachelle Scott, Ebony Williams, Jason Kittleberger and Acacia Schachte—all company members of Cedar Lake—as well as excerpts from Cedar Lake Repertoire by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (Orbo Novo, 2009) & Andonis Foniadakis (Horizons, 2013). The transitions between each piece were so quick and flawless that it was quite difficult for me to separate and identify them all.

 

Solos, duets, and larger group pieces came and went in liquid fashion, making it difficult to predict what was coming next. All dancers adopted an extra-terrestrial and androgynous appearance with high pony-tails and uniforms fitted tightly against their muscular bodies. There was no such thing as gender specific movement—females and males were lifting and being lifted alike.

 

It was striking how these works managed to give the student performers a true rockstar appeal. Throwing their bodies in all corners of the room and weaving in and out of the audience, they gained more and more control over the space as the show went on and admiration from us all. There was an element of risk during fast lifts and their extreme athleticism made it seem like they were dancing for their lives.

 

In an apparent attempt to dip into more experimental work, the dancers came close to audience members, whispered about what they had had for breakfast, and shared a kiss on stage. But these scenarios didn’t really make sense amongst the abstract beauty of athletic movement unattached to any story line.

 

These young and talented dancers are hungry to perform and seem to be willing to take any risk to make it in the field. Their passion was palpable within this setting; the proximity of the audience to the performers really allowed for the acknowledgement of these extraordinary movers. With only their bodies to share, they managed to keep the surprises coming. 360° was a humbling experience that truly showcased the best of a new generation of dance prodigies.

 

Written by Alexandra Pinel

Alexandra Pinel is a choreographer, dancer and arts administrator from Paris, France. She graduated from George Washington University, in DC, with a BA in Dance and Art History with honors. Allie dances with Movement of the People Dance Company and for Amy Jacobus Projects and was a recipient of the Maida Withers Dance Construction Company Award for Innovation in Dance and a Luther Rice Research Fellowship to study dance in Berlin, Germany.
Most recently, Alexandra choreographed a music video for Chinese punk band Re-TROS and had her dance film for the anniversary of the Rite of Spring featured on NPR radio’s blog. Mrs Pinel works at the Harkness Center For Dance Injuries and for choreographer Luciana Achugar. She is also a member of the Junior Committee of Dance/NYC.