Fiat Lux At Cedar LakeWednesday, October 03, 2012
|Fiat lux - Alexandra N.
Since 1992 I have been to many dance performances. These were performances where I actively looked forward to see. This was not always so. In the late and early 89s I took my two young daughters to quite a few shows. This was the “right” thing for a parent to do. After all my wife and I had made sure they took ballet. Their experience at the Vancouver School of Music was not a pleasant one. Their teacher only paid attention to those that showed promise. Of all the ballet and modern dance performances I only remember one. It featured black dancers in white costumes with white parasols. It was the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s Revelations. The other shows are a forgotten blur.
Since 1992 I have seen very good dance, including many exquisite pieces danced by Evelyn Hart.
Ballet BC has pleased me to no end. In particular I have to cite the company’s interpretations of works by choreograph William Forsythe. I will never forget the first Carmen (Jean Grand-Maître) danced by Ballet BC’s Sandrine Cassini. And I cannot forget anything danced or choreographed by either Emily Molnar or Crystal Pite, who not by coincidence, both danced for Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt.
I have seen experimental stuff, contact improvisational with Peter Bingham and I cannot forget Karen Jameson and our regrettably departed Lola MacLaughlin. Some of this experimental work included singular contributions by artist/sculptor/set designer Alan Storey and painter Tiko Kerr.
But only once has the dance been so good that I simply ignored it (sort of!) because the lighting like lighting I had never seen before.
This was the case last Friday Dance House’s presentation of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s performance at the Vancouver Playhouse. It featured three works, Hofesh Schecter’s Violet Kid (a grueling 33 minute long piece that must have taxed the dancers to their limit), Alexander Ekman’s Tuplet (with lots of humor that dispelled my gloom and depression of that paradoxically terrific Violet Kid) and finally Crystal Pite’s Grace Engine.
We, my granddaughter Lauren, 10, and just about every lanky mini-skirted dancer from Arts Umbrella were there to watch Arts Umbrella and Ballet BC alumnus Acacia Schachte. We (or at least I was disappointed) had to content ourselves with a short duo at the end of Pite’s piece. I wanted more.
But it was the light that grabbed my attention all night. The first piece and Pite’s both used light to conceal more than to reveal. Both pieces had me straining to notice, to see, to figure out, to be surprised. I will never understand why in Pite’s Grace Engine, lighting designer Jim French opened with a long bank of white florescent. It shocked me and the shocks kept coming. I was especially shocked to not note the usual bit of humor that Pite always injects into her choreography. This was dead serious. It reminded me a bit of the subtarreanean inhabitants of Well's The Time Machine. At 28 minutes long I could not have handled three or more minutes more. I was without breath. Lauren looked at me as if she had seen a ghost.
Schekter’s Violet Kid had him not only as choreographer and in charge of music but also as the lighting man. This was the piece, than more than the others hit me viscerally.
It brought to mind a new friend of mine who is a lighting designer for theatre in Vancouver. At age 30 this designer feels in a rut. Why? “They ask me, time and again, to light a living room!” And yes there are quite a few plays I have seen of late that all happen in living rooms. It is a pity that in our fractured and cubby holed arts community a theatrical lighting designer would not attend a dance performance featuring some of the best theatrical lighting I have seen in a long time.
Kudos to the DanceHouse for bringing Cedar Lake and a special mention to Amith A. Chandrashaker’s whimsical use of lighting in tandem with choreographer Alexander Ekman, who made my Lauren and I laugh in between those heavy pieces, pieces I will not forget.