Thursday, May 23

Not the typical ballet show

Blending dance and acrobatics, dance troupe challenges classical style with contemporary spin

UCLA Live will present two performances by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet at Royce Hall Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

UCLA Live will present two performances by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet at Royce Hall Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. CEDAR LAKE CONTEMPORARY BALLET

Tulle tutus and tiaras are the last things audiences can expect from Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. Moving with an electric energy, the New York-based dance troupe challenges classical ballet with a style fusing art, acrobatics and dance.

“Contemporary ballet is the work of now, it’s what’s happening now. We use classical ballet as the foundation, but it’s not classical (ballet) you should expect,” said ballet master Alexandra Damiani, who maintains the artistic integrity of each piece of choreography as a coach on and off stage. “It is more human with the sensation of emotion. (You) feel the personality of the dancers which is sometimes harder to see in classical ballet.”

Making their Los Angeles debut this Friday in Royce Hall, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet will perform “Orbo Novo” by acclaimed choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. A second performance Saturday will feature a collection of the three shorter pieces “Sunday, Again” by Jo Stromgren, “Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue” by Crystal Pite and “Frame of View” by Didy Veldman.

Largely inspired by neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s memoir, “My Stroke of Insight,” Friday’s piece explores themes of duality within the self. “Orbo Novo,” derived from a 15th century Spanish translation of “New World,” artistically translates Taylor’s accounts of heightened perception and euphoria following a left-brain stroke.

“”˜Orbo Novo’ is a humorous and insightful take on (Taylor’s) story,” said dancer Jubal Battisti. “It has a lot to do with the hemispheres of the brain switching between left and right and what that reveals.”

In an undulating elegance, dancers move across stage and weave in and out of grid-like red screens in an abstract narrative of the mind’s inner-workings.

Saturday’s pieces, though shorter, are no less visually mesmerizing.

“Sunday, Again” features a choreographed series of duets abstractly examining relationships across a stage enveloped in white costume and background.

“It’s about the relationship between couples, whether new or old love, and comments on the repetitive nature of relationships and the cycles that they go through,” Battisti said.

“Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue” also follows the duet structure, communicating intricate emotions of need and rescue as dancers move in dramatic juxtapositions of unison and opposition, suggesting roles of instigator, victim and rescuer.

Saturday closes with Veldman’s “Frame of View,” a piece exploring how individuals act within and outside of private and confined places through three yellow doors on stage.

“It asks, “˜What are you willing to reveal on the other side of the door? What are the fears that are available? Who do you open up to?’” Battisti said.

Exploring abstract realist themes allows Cedar Lake’s dancers to break down traditional barriers dividing dancers and their audience.

“I feel that I get to be more real, more human in contemporary dance, as opposed to being a princess or a fairy tale character,” said dancer Harumi Terayama.

Blending dance backgrounds and body types, Cedar Lake embraces diversity in both choreography and its dancers.

“(At Cedar Lake) we have (dancers that are) tall and short, different ethnicities, some come from the competition world, jazz or purely ballet,” Damiani said. “They all master ballet techniques, but we nourish their individuality inside to come out with something different.”

While Cedar Lake has just a two-night engagement this week, the UCLA community can look forward to their return next year with UCLA Live’s first interactive dance residency.

Commencing in 2011, Cedar Lake’s residency will include dance activities and master classes, as well as an installation series incorporating dancers and audience in a single performance space.

“There is a strong desire to get inspired to give to the community of UCLA. We look to get inspired by the place and the people and students,” Damiani said.

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