I don’t go to dance performances very often, but last night’s performance by the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet  at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House made me wonder why not.

There was only just one piece, called “Orbo Novo.”  The work was composed of many sections—with different combinations of the 15 dancers and a number of solos.

At times, the dancers moved like amoebae—as if they had no bones or joints. At other times, they bounced and gestured and fell and shivered in ways that didn’t seem humanly possible. They were acrobats and contortionists, they were graceful and shaken by palsy.

When all 15 dancers were on stage, they reminded me of jellyfish in an ocean—undulating and floating on stage. At other times they were like whirling dervishes.

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

In one section, they were animals in a cage—part monkey, part grasshopper, part frog.

Another section started with two male dancers whose heads seemed to have magnets in them. As they moved and danced, their heads were always touching. Until a female dancer came on stage–she kept their heads apart with her hands and arms, but somehow all three were always connected.

There was a long section towards the beginning that involved narrative spoken by the dancers themselves, apparently based on a book by a brain scientist documenting her own stroke.  I’m not sure if this was the intention, but when the dancers later trembled, flopped and twitched, I thought of someone for whom disease has taken away control of their muscles.  I knew though that these dancers had the utmost control of theirs.

The set was dimly lit throughout the night and there was a vertical lattice-like metal grid the dancers used on and off through the evening. The grid was moved around the stage—at times a fence, a cage, a dressing room, a series of walls. Though each square of the grid was only about a foot wide, the dancers were passed though the spaces. Though I saw it happen many times, I am still not sure how they fit their shoulders and hips through.

It was a wonderful evening.  The dancing was so beautiful it almost hurt to watch.

I also loved the music, played live by the Mosaic String Quartet (with guest pianist) who were in the shadows at the back of the stage. The music was composed by Szymon Brzóska. I want to listen to it some more.

The choreographer was Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (whom the Guardian called “Belgian’s bendiest choreographer“).

There is another program by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet tonight at BAM.  And Cedar Lake often has free rehearsals and free Thursday events.   There is a  free event next Thursday at their space at 547 West 26th Street.