Several times on April 28, Benoit-Swan Pouffer, the French-born artistic director of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, walked through the lobby of Royce Hall looking like he was nervous. He made eye contact with passersby, stopped to chat with other young, stylishly dressed people, but mostly, he looked as if he couldn’t sit still. That evening’s performance was his company’s second of a two-night engagement at UCLA Live. It’s surprising to think Pouffer would be worried, considering he’s incredibly gifted at spotlighting beatific dancers, with just enough impeccable training mixed with the gift of free flow. Cedar Lake’s versatile movers wrap their bodies around choreography like Silly Putty. Toned, flexible and funky, this performance was a prime example of how they ease from one choreographer’s work to the next, shifting effortlessly from one particular style to another. If my attention ever wandered throughout the night’s three sets, it was no fault of the dancers.
Especially not Jon Bond, who makes 28-year-old Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman’s “Tuplet” piece his own. The scene opens with a white screen, Bond standing as a black silhouette. Every time he moves, a sound escapes. An arm causes a whirring, a foot evokes a beep, and a shoulder lets out a hum. Simple, but evocative. By replacing counts of eight with noises, the body becomes a toy and the movements more relatable. The rhythmic exercise roots dance firmly in everyday life. But there’s nothing ordinary about Bond’s graceful execution. He plays his body like a virtuoso. Or, more likely, Bond acts as DJ, his body acts as turntables that blend and create sounds with every revolution.
“Nothing isn’t a rhythm,” a voice blares out to the crowd. “What would life be without rhythm?” This question and the topic are consuming passions of Ekman’s. In a following skit, six dancers stand in a line, and one by one (in varying orders) burst into a specific motion when their names are called (pre-recorded in their own voices). Separate motions are performed for the first and last names. Bond’s is the funniest, especially his last name. He crouches to the floor at the prompt of Jonathan, but wacks himself back, as if struck by lightning when he hears Bond. Ekman has fun with ordering the names, placing Bond’s multiple times in a row. Bond handles each body shake with aplomb, bouncing back in seconds in a ready-set position. That his moves elicit awe and laughter is a testament to Bond’s physicality and Ekman’s vision.
Sandwiched between Regina van Berkel’s “Simply Marvel” and Hofesh Shechter’s “Violet Kid,” “Tuplet” serves as a bridge between the calm and chaos. All three sets, however, perfectly illustrate the appeal of contemporary ballet. Similar to the composition of each Cedar Lake dancer, the choreography’s emphasis on blending tradition, discipline and classical lines with fluidity, pulsing and hybridity of styles allows audiences to connect with a wider range of emotion and revel in the body’s capacity for the unimaginable.
—Jessica Koslow, Culture Spot LA
As this year’s season draws to a close, UCLA Live will be announcing big changes on May 22, including its name to Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. Visit www.uclalive.org.