Dancers are some of the greatest photographic subjects around (for obvious reasons). They know their bodies, how to pose and captivate audiences—all of which translate into consistently stunning images. But Nir Arieli's photo series, "Flocks," showcases some of our favorite dance companies in a completely new context: without motion.
Arieli has been photographing a number of world-class companies for two years. The dancers are posed in motionless formations that, while aren't showing any movement, are still 100% dancey—not to mention stunning. Arieli told Slate that he wanted to show "what happens after the movement is over or when the movement is drained from the body. You get an intimate moment about this special group of people who spend so much time together...They’re very physical with each other...there are very interesting relationships formed with these people, and I hope this project is speaking about that in a visual way.” Below are some of our favorites, but be sure to check out the entire feature here!
(Now-disbanded) Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet (Photo by Nir Arieli, via Slate)
The Martha Graham Dance Company. (Photo by Nir Arieli, via Slate)
Ailey II members. (Photo by Nir Arieli, via Slate)
The news came on Friday, and I'm still in shock: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet is shutting down. It'll fulfill its engagements in Boston this May and Brookyln this June, but company auditions and the Cedar Lake 180 summer program have been canceled.
What? Just...what? Until about five minutes ago, Cedar Lake seemed like one of the most stable companies around, thanks to generous financial backing by Walmart heiress Nancy Laurie. It attracted incredible dancers with things like year-round contracts and dental insurance—perks few other contemporary groups could even dream of offering. And holy mother, the results were fantastic. Under Benoit-Swan Pouffer's direction, Cedar Lake acquired gorgeous, interesting, cutting-edge repertory. It was THE PLACE to dance. Pretty much every student we've interviewed over the past bazillion years (or, OK, the past 12—the troupe was founded in 2003) has cited Cedar Lake as her dream company.
Were there warning signs? Were we just blind? Yes, the company faced a hurdle when Pouffer left in 2013. But by February 2014, when we featured three of Cedar Lake's beautiful dancers on our cover, it seemed like things were running smoothly again under Alexandra Damiani.
Cedar Lakers (L to R) Ida Saki, Billy Bell and Navarra Novy-Williams photographed for our February 2014 cover (by Erin Baiano)
The New York Observer says that "financial issues" were at least partly to blame for the shutdown. I guess that's the thing about fairy godmothers like Laurie: Magical as they are, when they decide the party is over, it's over. And it looks like the clock just struck midnight for Cedar Lake.
I'm saddest for the dancers. I'm not exactly worried for them—they'll have no trouble finding work, geniuses that they are. But they were part of a beautiful thing, and now that beautiful thing is gone.
RIP, Cedar Lake.
Last week, two male dancers on two different continents made Facebook fans do a serious double take. Warning: When you watch these dancers' incredible feats of balance and strength, you may want to hold onto your jaw—it's going to drop.
If you've ever been on a Boso Balance Trainer (or any other balance board) in a physical therapy session or at the gym, you know that just standing on the thing can be pretty darn challenging. (Do a simple YouTube search, and you can see that even the fittest people struggle a bit—fast-forward to 2:15 in this video for exhibit A.)
But you all know that ballet dancers are crazy—crazy-strong, crazy-focused and crazy-AMAZING. Take English National Ballet's Barry Drummond, for example. This is his Bosu Balance workout:
So there's that. But then, inspired by Drummond, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet's Jon Bond decided to try it out:
I just can't even.
(photo by Kristen Sawatzky)
At last year's Capezio A.C.E. (Award for Choreographic Excellence) Awards in NYC, Lindsay Nelko tied for third place, winning $3,000 to produce her own show in conjunction with Capezio and Break the Floor Productions. Next week, we'll see the fruits of that partnership: Nelko will present the world premiere of her evening-length work, Awakening, at Ailey's Citigroup Theater on August 6 and 7.
Nelko, who has choreographed for "The X Factor" and "So You Think You Can Dance," has made some top-notch connections over the course of her career, so it's unsurprising that the cast of Awakening is pretty spectacular. Of the 24 dancers, eight are appearing courtesy of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, four are current or former members of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and others have performed with San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet and the Bad Boys of Dance. It's a seriously out-of-this-world roster.
Dance Spirit caught up with Nelko to learn more about Awakening.
How would you describe the show?
Awakening is loosely based on my life, and on the moments of realization—or awakening—in certain feelings or events. There are 18 small narratives woven together that depict those feelings, including sadness, anxiety, joy, friendship and young love. There's also the theme of awakening in terms of sleep. The show moves between reality, the dream state and hypnagogia, which is the state between wakefulness and sleep.
(L to R) Mark Caserta and Casey McIntyre appearing courtesy of Complexions Contemporary Ballet in Lindsay Nelko's Awakening
(photo by Matthew Murphy)
That seems pretty deep.
It is! I've been inspired by my life's journey. I feel like artistic work frequently stems from our selves. It’s been like therapy to have my own show. I've been able to dive deeper, bring those experiences to life through incredible dancers and share it all with a wider audience.
Jeffrey Sousa and Ashley Fitzgerald in Awakening
(photo by Matthew Murphy)
How has Awakening evolved over time?
Well, the process really started in May 2013, when I created and workshopped Awakening for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. (Then I presented an excerpt at the A.C.E. Awards.) At that time, however, not all of the pieces were finalized, and I've since added a few more to the work. And while my first cast was amazing, I've been blessed to have an incredibly diverse cast this time around. There will be 18 classical and contemporary ballet dancers, in addition to modern, jazz and musical theater dancers. It's going to be an interesting mix, but also a truer representation of my work.
Can't wait for August 6? Watch a clip of Awakening from last year's ACE Awards below, and click here for more information.
Alexander Ekman's "Hubbub." Photo by Julieta Cervantes
Allow me to indulge in a #humblebrag: I feel so incredibly lucky to live in NYC with access to so much amazing dance! I'm seeing Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet TONIGHT, and I can't wait.
We're united in our obsession with this mind-blowing company—you probably saw them on our February 2014 cover! (If you haven't had a chance to see Cedar Lake on one of their tours, you can still catch them in Durham, NC, July 5-6 at the American Dance Festival.)
I first saw Cedar Lake perform way back in October, 2010 and it rendered me speechless. It's not an exaggeration to say that my world shifted a little bit. I have extremely high expectations for tonight.
Andonis Foniadakis' "Horizons." Photo by Paula Lobo
In case you need more Cedar Lake in your life (I know you do), the Brooklyn Academy of Music made these awesome videos showing excerpts from each of the dances in their program. The excerpts are too short, but they give you a sense of the thoughtful structure of the program—an important decision, considering Cedar Lake's diverse repertoire.
If that's not enough for you (it's never enough) check out these other Cedar Lake links that BAM has rounded up for your viewing pleasure.
How many companies can brag that most of their dancers are choreographers, too? That's one of the reasons we're obsessed with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet: a significant percentage of its artists have experimented with choreography. (Some of them—like Billy Bell, one of our February cover stars—even have choreographic side projects of their own.)
It makes sense that Cedar Lake would attract dancers with creative minds. The company is constantly commissioning new works, which means Cedar Lakers are exposed to many choreographers' visions. And frequently the process is collaborative—the dancers actually have a hand in what the final product looks like.
Now Cedar Lake is launching "Cedar Lab," a project that will give its dancers a chance to create works on their fellow company members. The choreographic participants—Jon Bond, Navarra Novy-Williams (also a February cover star!), Matthew Rich, Joaquim de Santana, and Vânia Doutel Vaz—will develop their dances during a multi-week workshop in July, and show off their works in progress in performances on July 29 and 30. Cedar Lakers choreographing on Cedar Lake bodies? This is gonna be good, you guys.
The company has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the new project. Check out the intro video below, then click here for more info.
When we met up with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet "new kids" Ida Saki, Billy Bell and Navarra Novy-Williams for our February cover shoot, the company was in a state of limbo. Artistic director Benoit-Swan Pouffer had resigned in May 2013, and both the dancers and long-time ballet master and rehearsal director Alexandra Damiani were anxiously awaiting the announcement of his replacement.
Yesterday, nearly a year after Pouffer's resignation, the company finally made the big announcement: Alexandra Damiani is the new artistic director of Cedar Lake! A long-time soloist with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Damiani has worked with the company since 2005, and she served as interim artistic director over the course of the last year.
But that's not Cedar Lake's only big announcement; they also named Canadian choreographer Cyrstal Pite as associate choreographer, a new position for the company. Pite has already set two works on Cedar Lake: Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue in 2007 and Grace Engine in 2012. As associate choreographer, she will contribute a minimum of two new works over the next three years.
Want a chance to see the "New Cedar Lake"? They're celebrating their 10th anniversary with a debut season at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House from June 11–14. The company will perform Pite's Grace Engine, among other works by various choreographers. Click here to get your tickets.
And in the meantime, watch this excerpt of Grace Engine to whet your appetite. Enjoy!
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet performs Grace Engine at the Joyce Theater in NYC (Photo Andrea Mohin/The New York Times)