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Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Friday 6th March 2015

The first of two performances by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, from New York, Mixed Rep, featured three short and contrasting pieces by three different composers, selected from the many works that they have performed in their ten year history. Ji?í Kylián's Indigo Rose, Crystal Pite's Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue, and Hofesh Shechter's Violet Kid, all drew enormous applause, and had people arguing over which was the best of three following the performances, which would no doubt be good news to the performers and to the Adelaide Festival.

Ji?í Kylián's Indigo Rose begins with a single dancer walking upstage from the audience's right to left. Above him a cable is angled downward from the front of the stage to the opposite rear so that, eventually, it is low enough for him to bump his head on it, stopping him briefly before changing direction. From this simple beginning the work builds, and then a white 'sail' is drawn down along the cable and dancers appear from behind it, seem to climb it, and appear in silhouette against it when it is backlit, becoming larger and smaller as they dance to and fro in the space between this curtain and the light source. Later, this veil is removed again, opening the full stage to the dancers. There is also a short section with video projection on the rear wall.

Premiered in 1998 by Nederlands Dance Theatre, and in 2013 by Cedar Lake, this work draws on an interesting collection of music: Robert Ashley, Factory Preset (1993) used by permission of Robert Ashley; François Couperin, from l'Apothéose de Lully, Plainte des Memes (1725); John Cage, from Three Dances for Two Prepared Pianos, Dance No. 1 (1945); and J.S. Bach, from Das wohltemperierte Klavier, Fugue No. 8 in E-Flat minor (1722)

The five dancers are each dressed in a different colour but the basic costumes are the same, although with differences between those for each of the men and those for both women. Although there is a good deal of humour, some sections are also powerful, and even confrontational. It was an excellent choice for the first piece of the evening and generated great expectation for what was to come, expectation that was fulfilled.

Crystal Pite's Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue was next, after the first interval, a complex piece with nine dancers that offered continually changing relationships between pairs and trios of dancers, with a feeling at the end that there were many ways to view who was actually rescuing whom, and whether anybody had actually been rescued at all. Occasionally a member of one pair remains, and becomes one of the next pair. It was a very thought provoking work, as well as a beautiful performance. This work, too, had an interesting choice of music, with selections from the original motion picture sound track of Solaris by Cliff Martinez.

Hofesh Shechter's Violet Kid, uses music for viola, 'cello, and double bass, and strong percussive sounds, created by Shechter, and includes his spoken monologue asking, "If I talked less, would I have more friends", at an early stage in the work. Shechter was also involved in the lighting and costume design, allowing him to achieve strong degree of integration of all of the aspects of the work.

This final piece of the evening employed fourteen dancers, and was the darkest of the three works. There are gentler almost serene moments, but others of considerable strength, even suggested violence when one dancer is on his knees, while another points to his head as though holding a pistol. Shechter tells us that this work about the struggle of young people to find meaning in this modern world, and struggle they do, with enormous energy and emotional impact.

At the end, members of the audience were in no hurry to leave, standing around, or sitting with a drink, and discussing what they had seen and how much they had enjoyed all three performances. A fitting tribute, on top of the applause and standing ovation that was given at the end of the evening.

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From This Author Barry Lenny