Class on Stage

Recently, I attended Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s production of “Orbo Novo,” brilliantly choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. As I watched the dancers’ intricate torso undulations, extended limbs and feats of ladder climbing, I was transported back to Choreography 101 from my freshman year of college. Because at the foundation of the piece—underneath the costumes and behind the breathtaking partnering and unbelievable floorwork—there lay a checklist of class assignments and studies.
    Inspired by neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s memoir My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, Cherakaoui’s piece explored humanity’s understanding and experience of harmony with others. The piece began with a well-crafted series of gestures set to Dr. Taylor’s words. Then, as the piece morphed into a more dance-y dance set to driving music composed by Szymon Brzoska, the sort of choreographic element grocery list came to mind. First there was dance with text. Check. Canons; check. A piece exploring vibratory movement juxtaposed with slow motions. Check. Level changes. Dance on structures. Negative and positive space explorations. Dance in silence, check, check, check, check.
    But the elements were weaved together so tactfully, that although their seams were noticeable, each piece fit together to make a larger cohesive work. And in a greater sense, that’s how everything in life works. Unique and individual entities coexist with millions of others—running parallel, perpendicular or not even in relation at all. Which, ultimately, was the concept behind Cherakaoui’s work.


Watch a behind-the-scenes rehearsal of Orbo Novo here!

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Cynthia Oliver in her office. Photo by Natalie Fiol

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