Pushing the limits of dance
Following its performance on Sunday at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, the distinguished New York-based Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet will be playing the Athens Concert Hall (1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333) tonight to Friday, on its first visit to Greece. The company, based in the heart of Chelsea in Manhattan, in a strikingly renovated venue, promotes the best possible features of American society and culture, while also keeping its sights set on what’s happening in European dance. Its dancers are paid for 52 weeks a year and the artistic director, Benoit-Swan Pouffer, is able not only to commission choreographies but also to host guest choreographers for several months, to work with the dancers and jointly develop ideas. At the entrance to the dance company’s building, video projections screen excerpts of the troupe’s earlier work, in a clever reminder of the power of the company’s repertoire and its perpetual movement forward. Pouffer has been artistic director since 2005, after a long stint as a dancer, teacher and choreographer. Born and raised in Paris, he studied at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse and performed works by well-known French choreographers, such as Claude Brumachon and Angelin Preljocaj. He has received numerous awards, spent seven years with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and has taught in Europe and North Africa. Pouffer is known for his ability to spot talented dancers as well as for his view that artists of high caliber and varied techniques can breathe new life into dance. Thanks to Pouffer, audiences in the United States have become more familiar with a new generation of European choreographers. Other than new dance productions, he also promotes collaborations between his company and museums. Shortly before his Greek performances, Pouffer spoke to Kathimerini. How do you see the future of ballet? I would like to believe that ballet will continue to evolve. Already the boundaries between the different styles of dance have become blurred, which is why it is important for contemporary dancers to have something more than just technique and knowlege. The company presents both classical and contemporary works. All the company’s dancers have a classical background, but also many other dance experiences. We present a selective repertoire of contemporary artists. What will Greek audiences see? In the first part, we will present Jo Stromgren’s «Sunday, Again,» which is about relationships and the tension created by our free time. I love what Jo calls «the inevitable Sunday» – that annoying Sunday that forces couples to look at their ability to coexist. Free time is not good for some types of relationships. Immediately afterward comes Crystal Pite’s «Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue,» which also explores different aspects of relationships, like the idea of rescuing someone. The excerpts from Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin’s choreography «Decadance» provides an amazing finale and is always very popular with audiences. Naharin himself describes this piece as a reference to the possibility of casting a new look on something that already exists. What do you consider important as the artistic director of the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet? I am interested in pushing the boundaries of dance and those that separate the audience from the dancers. My mission is to meet new artists from around the world and give them a conscience through my company. When choosing a dancer, is technique the main decider? I see ballet and all dance styles as tools that help a choreographer’s vision. They also help my dancers by providing them with different ways of using the body without restricting themselves. A choreographer’s unique and special language is more important to me than any particular dance style. When we work with choreographers like Ohad Naharin and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who have a very personal approach, I want my dancers to be able to express it.