Here are a company of versatile dancers. In the course of an evening they shifted from the hunched choreography of Hofesh Shechter to the long-limbed legginess of Crystal Pite, and also funny man Alexander Ekman’s rhythmic and irrational use of the body. In their first UK visit, Cedar Lake bring buckets of American performing talent but borrow some more familiar European choreographic skills. Hofesh Shechter, an Israeli-born but UK-based artist, is certainly familiar to London audiences whilst Alexander Ekman and Canadian-born Crystal Pite will be known largely for their work with Nederlands Dans Theater.

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

Shechter’s Violet Kid (“Violent Kid” might be more apt) is a typically angry offering. In many ways it is conventional Hofesh: the funny drawled voice-over that begins it, the music video editing, snippets of dance crosscut and framed between blackouts and the flat line that faces the audience. I’m reluctant to raise any complaint. Shechter has found such a recognisable style, vocabulary and toolbox that of course we will notice similarity to past works. Unfortunately it did feel like a bit of a re-hash with images from earlier works like Uprising and Political Mother abounding. Maybe it is a brilliant way to introduce his work to the USA – and why should they be deprived of it – but for the UK audience it feels like something we’ve seen before. Furthermore, during the performance the statement and restatement of themes makes later sections seem superfluous.

Violet Kid provides a wonderful vehicle for the dancers however who have the softness, flow, precision, weight and depth of Shechter’s own company dancers, but maybe a little of the emotion that drives them. The material is an inorganic, conversational string of hammering fists, subtle hip flexions and hops, puppet-like connections between hands and knees and floor work that meanders smoothly across the stage. One of Shechter’s greatest strengths is his control of all elements. A true polymath, he choreographs, composes, lights and narrates, applying his vision across all media to create a completely immersive world in which his choreography can sit. His work is certainly more striking for it.

In Tuplet, Ekman demonstrates a similarly multimedia approach with use of voice-over, video and lighting that doesn't just illuminate the dancers but interacts with them. Ekman finds rhythm in everything: in the regular pulse of a stamping foot and in the irregular impulse of a repeated name; in the changes of lighting and in his impeccable comic timing. After all, as stated in the piece, rhythm is simply division. Dancer Jonathan Bond shined in Tuplet, performing a silhouetted solo with easy fluid strength and articulation.

The final piece was Crystal Pite’s Grace Engine. It is unspecifically narrative, heavily featuring anguished silent screams and slowmo horror which fail to incite any real emotional response. Grace Engine has a certain theatrical thrill and is slicked over with a kind of contemporary gloss – leaving no roughness around its edges. A little rough to go with the smooth could give it a satisfying bite and make its emotional content a little more convincing.