Cedar Lake Contemporary Ensemble

In the past year, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet has welcomed a new artistic director, brought eight new dancers into its 19-member ranks and christened a colossal new space in NYC’s Chelsea gallery district. Though the company’s been around since 2002, its edgy new image is drawing national attention.


CL’s new artistic director, Benoit-Swan Pouffer—or “Swan,” as he goes by—trained at Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse in Paris before moving to NYC to study at the Ailey School. Now at just 31, and having danced with Philadanco, Donald Byrd/The Group and Complexions before settling in at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 1997 to 2004, he has the physical prowess to continue a successful performing career. But having had a drive to choreograph since he was a kid, Swan found his calling offstage. “I feel that [choreographers] need those dancers who dedicate their life to dancing and refining this craft,” he says. “That was not my destiny. I’ve always known that my destiny was to create work.”


Swan calls the arsenal of young talent at his fingertips “a blessing.” Cedar Lake’s 16 company members and three apprentices have BFAs from schools like Juilliard, North Carolina School of the Arts, University of Utah and SUNY Purchase, and have spent time with companies like Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Compañia Nacional de Danza II.


Supported by the company’s founder, philanthropist and Wal-Mart heiress Nancy Laurie, CL opened its new center in October 2005. The revamped warehouse building is the former studio of celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, and sits on a Chelsea block lined with art galleries. With gritty exposed brick, soaring vaulted ceilings and skylights, the space is a perfect match for the hip and technically impressive company. This summer, Swan has visions of taking dance out of its traditional theater format with multimedia dance installations so gallery hoppers along their block will have something to stop in and see at CL, too.


Following two triple-bill runs in October and February, in which Swan and two other emerging choreographers presented new works inspired by a shared theme, Swan’s first full-length ballet will debut this May. As for what’s to come for the company after that, Swan prefers to keep the audience guessing. “That’s how I see the company going forward—having such a diverse rep that you never know what we’re about to do the next season.”

Latest Posts

Because there's never been a better time to binge-watch "Bunheads" (via Freeform)

5 of the Danciest TV Shows Streaming Right Now (and Where to Stream Them)

We're about two months into #SocialDisDancing, and let's be real—while we all wish we were spending every spare minute stretching, cross-training, or taking online classes, sometimes we just need to Netflix and chill.

We figure, if you're going to be watching TV anyways, why not make it dancy TV? After all, watching pros dance on-screen is basically dance class homework...or at least we'll say it is. Here are five of the danciest TV shows for you to watch—and where to find them.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
The cast of Center Stage in a promotional poster (courtesy Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Making of "Center Stage," as Remembered by Its Dance Stars

Whether you first watched it in a theater two decades ago or on Netflix last week, odds are you feel a deep connection to Center Stage. The cult classic, which premiered May 12, 2000, is arguably the greatest dance film ever made. (Dance obsessives might take issue with the "cult" before "classic," not to mention the "dance" before "film.") Jody Sawyer's ballet journey—which combines oh-wow-I've-had-those-blisters realism with wait-does-she-have-magic-color-changing-pointe-shoes fantasy—stands the test of time, early-aughts fashion be darned. We've memorized its highly quotable lines, laughed with (and, gently, at) its heroes, and been inspired by its sincere love of dance and dancers.

To celebrate Center Stage's 20th anniversary, we asked five of its dance stars to talk through their memories of the filming process. Here are their stories of on-set bonding, post-puke kissing scenes, and life imitating art imitating life.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

2020 Dance Grads: We Want to Put You on Our Cover!

Hello, all you members of the great Dance Class of 2020. With the world on lockdown, this hasn't been the graduation season you expected. You likely weren't able to go to prom; your commencement ceremonies have probably been delayed or canceled; and you might not have been able to take your planned-for final bow onstage.

Since you're missing out on so much, we'd like to give you a virtual ovation, to recognize all you've accomplished. And what's the highest honor we can bestow? The cover of Dance Spirit!

Here's the plan:

  • If you're a high school or college senior dancer, use this form to submit your information and dance portrait.
  • Each day during the month of May, we'll create a digital Dance Spirit cover starring one of you, chosen at random—31 covers in total.
  • At the end of the month, we'll create a "commencement video" featuring even more of your submitted dance photos.
  • 100 of you, selected by lottery, will also receive free one-year subscriptions to the print magazine.

Merde, 2020 graduates, as you dance your way into the future!

High School and College Senior Dancers: Submit Your Photo Here

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search