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February 25, 2015

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

On their first trip to Australia, Cedar Lake dance company bring their much-discussed mix of contemporary American and European arthouse sensibilities exclusively to Adelaide.

  • Picture: Sharen Bradford

In the developed and thriving dance scene of America, Cedar Lake is an outlier.  


Cedar Lake perform between March 6 and March 8 at the Festival Theatre as part of the Adelaide Festival.

The privately-backed company from New York has courted controversy with its largely European repertoire and a style that takes in both classical training and contemporary flair with equal seriousness. 

But it was the very things that seemed to upset people about Cedar Lake that attracted dancer Joseph Kudra to it. 

“I felt they were doing a really great job of blending that American pop art and pop culture with the sensitivity of a European choreographer or aesthetic,” he says. 

Appearing for the first time in Australia at the Adelaide Festival, Cedar Lake bring two shows with them – the aptly named Mixed Rep, which includes three short works, and the full length Orbo Novo

Orbo, from Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, is based on Jill Bolte Taylor’s book about her experience of a stroke and sees the dancers embody the physical and emotional struggles the author and neuroanatomist underwent in the process of recovery. 

Joseph says connecting with the work – even though its subject matter is remote from his own experience – was easy. 

“For me dancing is emotional,” says Joseph. “It’s about the steps, the musicality and physicality but in the end when you’re onstage you’re trying to say something. For me, I don’t like to speak so much in life so that’s why as a dancer I’m able to use my body and show tension or a softness, or whatever else is required.” 

Joseph says this emotional commitment to performance is common across all the dancers at Cedar Lake and that their second show, Mixed Rep, makes full use of this as the cast switch between the different modes of the three pieces. 

“To start the evening, we have Indigo Rose – it was created for Nederlands Dans Theater – this young fresh company that was ready to dance and excited to dance,” says Joseph.  

“So for this piece I do really try to connect with being young and being so excited to go to dance classes and the excitement of bringing something to the stage. 

“Then we have Crystal Pite’s Ten Duets on the Theme of Rescue, which like the title says – is about rescue. And we’re so trusting of each other that it’s perfect to dance with your partner because we can always be on the edge of something and push each other harder.

“Then, the last one is called Violet Kid. It’s thirty minutes and we’re all on stage the entire time, going, going, going. For me it’s a test of endurance and determination.”

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