Cedar Lake, aged seven, is peculiarly American. The New York troupe is born of money – that of its generous Walmart heiress founder – and the faith that it can buy anything, including a claim on European contemporary dance. The first of its two programmes this season has me convinced that indeed it can. This is not just because contemporary dance has gone global. It is also because the dances speak our language: jubilant incoherence.
Sunday, Again, by Norwegian dance-theatre maven Jo Strømgren, uses badminton to represent the repartee of couples on their uneasy day of rest. The birdie is the joy that flies away. The badminton metaphor is rich – consider the shuttlecock’s weightlessness versus the force of a serve. But Strømgren does not flesh it out. At times, Sunday, Again loses sight of nets and rackets altogether for scenes of worship, a group photo, you name it.
The lush, spacious, daring dancing, to a remixed Bach motet, almost compensates. In the first of several duets, Jason Kittelberger presses Acacia Schachte high overhead in a sideways X before dropping her nearly to the floor in a tango swoon. Even in a company of deliciously smooth operators, these two stand out, he for his brusque thuggishness and she for an intelligent precision that burns every move on the air.
With his blithe pessimism, Strømgren brings to mind fellow Scandinavian Mats Ek; Jacopo Godani makes you wish for William Forsythe. The Italian, who danced with Forsythe for nine years, has inherited all the American’s effects with none of his thinking. Forsythe pulls the body out of classical alignment to replace the aristocratic perpendiculars with a widening gyre; in Unit in Reaction, Godani merely breaks the body into pieces. The dance lurches from one tired avant-garde-y trick to another.
But Swede Alexander Ekman, at a wee 26, redeems things. His New York debut, Hubbub, for the full troupe of 15, applies pompous social critique and dancers’ running commentary to itself — a jumble of angular posturing on high pedestals and fiercely staccato gestures executed in tight formation. The parodies of art talk are not exact enough, but the reckless invention is a giddy pleasure. () Closes November 7, www.joyce.org