[2015129] Orbo Novo

[2015129] Orbo Novo

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet @ Festival Theatre

2:00pm, Sun 8 Mar 2015

I must have said this a million times, both on this blog and in person: I love watching dance, but I understand nothing about it. Over the years, I’ve discovered that dance has the ability to move me more than any other medium; maybe because of my absolute lack of understanding of the medium, some dance pieces can just reach right into my brain and conjure emotions that I can’t quite explain. And when I heard the murmurs of delight and approval that accompanied the announcement of Cedar Lake’s Adelaide Festival programme, I immediately inked them into The Schedule… it’s fair to say that the two Cedar Lake shows featured in my Top Five Shows To Giddily Look Forward To.

When neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a stroke, she was offered an opportunity that few (if any) of her colleagues would be offered: the ability to observe the machinations of the stroke from the perspective of the victim. She observed – initially panicked, then with a sense of calm – as her physical functions were compromised, as parts of her brain were shut down… Years of therapy later, her memories of the event spawned a book and a well-publicised and much-lauded lecture; Bolte Taylor’s familiar words formed part of the audio backdrop of Orbo Novo (though, unlike many who recognised the spoken word backing, I didn’t hear it via TED, but rather Love+Radio).

With Bolte Taylor’s words underscoring the performance, and a set of large movable wooden lattices spanning the stage, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s choreography seemed to evoke the actions of the brain during (and after) a stroke. The members of Cedar Lake seemed to act as neurons, swarming as if fluid, combining to create actions, splitting to explore ideas. The lattices were rearranged on the fly to frame the stage and – later – to hold some of the dancers captive; but every inch of their height, every hole in their structure, was used by the troupe to show an organic process.

The smoothness and grace of the Cedar Lake dancers was almost beyond my belief. The manner in which they transitioned from wide sweeps, solo or duo or trio or troupe, and then focussed on smaller, almost finicky, movements was divine; the storytelling in their actions was palpable. At times overt – dancers would often face the audience, mouthing Bolte Taylor’s words in time with the backing – the performance never failed to engage… and the moments of fracture were darkly gorgeous – and emotionally impactful.

As I mentioned before, I know nothing about dance… and I certainly know nothing about the mechanisms of the medium to emote. But Orbo Novo was, without a doubt, the most cohesive, comprehensible, and intelligent dance piece I’ve encountered. And, perhaps as a result, it was also the most emotionally engaging: it conjured thoughts and feelings in me that only the best theatre had managed to lure before. I absolutely adored Orbo Novo, and I left Festival Theatre absolutely yearning for more Cedar Lake…

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