Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, which flaunts a versatility and virtuosity that still remains grounded in ballet, heads to Centennial Hall next Thursday.


Often called one of the most exciting dance companies in America today, the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, which comes to Centennial Hall next Thursday, takes pride in its programs of adventurous choreography. Being willing to explore virtually any mix of movement and multimedia possibilities, Cedar Lake flaunts a versatility and virtuosity that still remains grounded in ballet.

The New York Times declared this 11-year old Manhattan-based company to be “possibly the country’s most innovative contemporary ballet troupe, with an A-list repertoire.”

Cedar Lake was founded in 2003 by Nancy Laurie, a Walmart heiress, specifically to develop and showcase new work that would be both athletic and artistic. She wanted to actively integrate ballet into more accessible dance styles.

In 2005, French dancer/choreographer Benoit-Swan Pouffer left the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater after seven years to become Cedar Lake’s artistic director.

“My dance education in Paris gave me a solid base and a solid ground to really explore new work,” Pouffer told Dallas arts writer Katie Dravenstott last year. “I think my taste and what I’m drawn to right now is truly the international work that you don’t get the chance to see in America.

“So, my goal is to keep forging this company and keep pushing the boundaries and limitations of dance while opening it to a wider audience.”

Although Pouffer left the company last summer, then choreographed the Broadway show “Soul Doctor,” the repertoire he developed remains the heart of Cedar Lake’s artistic spirit.

Reaching that wider audience included taking a part in the 2011 movie “The Adjustment Bureau,” a sci-fi thriller starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. Her character is a dancer with Cedar Lake. To prepare for the film she spent several months  training with the company. The movie was well received, as was Blunt’s dancing under Pouffer’s tutelage.

Cinematic imagery is often attached to reviews of Crystal Pite’s “Grace Engine,” one of the pieces on the program. The New York Times said “the atmosphere is often that of a thriller…sometimes as if someone were being followed down an alley.” In Massachusetts another reviewer noted the “distinct taste of film noir.”

Chuck Graham is a Tucson-based freelance writer. Contact him at Chuck@tucsonstage.com