(photo credit: Courtesy)
For the past 10 years, the New York City-based Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet has prevailed as America’s top repertory dance company. Founded by Wal- Mart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie, the troupe has, since its inception, had the capital to unapologetically seek out the best of everything in the dance field. Their sun-filled Chelsea home, formerly that of photographer Annie Leibovitz, serves as both a workspace and a performance venue. In 10 years, the company has managed to attract world-class dancers, as well as a veritable roster of the top choreographers in the contemporary and modern genres.
This month, Cedar Lake will return to Israel with a three-part program, which will be presented as part of the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center’s 2013-2014 season. The evening will consist of Violet Kid by Hofesh Shechter, Tuplet by Alexander Ekman and Necessity, Again by Jo Stromgren.
Each piece was created as an original commission for Cedar Lake.
“It’s an awesome program,” said interim artistic director Alexandra Damiani in a recent interview. “Violet Kid
has a lot of information and can be taken in a very deep way. Then comes Tuplet
, which is just about rhythm, so it’s all fun. Tuplet
is a great way to clear the palate. After a lot of information in the first piece, it’s nice to get another ride after. The last piece, Necessity, Again
, has this corny music and is filled with humor. It’s a great way to finish something that started on the heavier side.”
The company is currently experiencing a major transition.
Since the early days of their existence, artistic director Benoit- Swan Pouffer tirelessly led the team, seeking out the brightest rising stars to contribute to the company’s repertoire. Earlier this year, Pouffer stepped down to pursue other interests. With Pouffer gone and his replacement as yet unnamed, the board of directors turned to longtime ballet master Alexandra Damiani to hold the fort.
Damiani spent her 20s and 30s dancing as a soloist for Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, Complexions and Donald Byrd/The Group. In 2005, she joined Cedar Lake’s staff. She had no idea that within a few years she would find herself at the helm of the company.
“It may sound paradoxical because it can be seen like something that is not so much fun, but right now what excites me is juggling a few balls and having them all in the air,” Damiani said.
Indeed, her schedule is so demanding and dynamic, that it took three tries to arrange the interview.
“I have lots of meetings and brainstorming sessions with the board about what will be best in the long term for the company. Then I run down to the studio, do a few pliés and watch a run of Violet Kid
. It’s a lot, but I enjoy it,” she said.
Though the future is somewhat unclear, Damiani expressed deep relief and gratitude that the artistic staff has remained intact. In similar companies, the departure of an artistic director has led to a sort of changing of the guard.
However, the Cedar Lake gang has decided to stay put.
“I think it was pretty wonderful that the team and dancers have all stayed for this new season. There is a sense of needing to be together to make this smooth for everyone. We ended a chapter, and we started a new one together. We got closer. It was a nice challenge for all of us as a team to stick together,” she said.
In the midst of all this uncertainty, Cedar Lake continues to tour extensively. Following their visit in Israel, Cedar Lake will travel to Switzerland for a two-city tour. Later this year, the company will embark on a major West Coast tour. Once they return home, they will begin a new production with Israeli choreographer Emmanuel Gat.
“We are really excited to go into creation with Gat,” said Damiani.
“He came to do a workshop, and he really blew us away. He is very different from anyone we have worked with in the past.”
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet will perform at TAPAC from November 20 to 23. For more information, visit www.israel-opera.co.il.