Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet to Close

Cedar Lake rocked the dance community on Friday, announcing that the company would close in June at the end of its 2015 season. Were you planning to attend the Cedar Lake 180 summer intensive? It's canceled. Hopefully you bought travel insurance for your plane tickets because the upcoming March 27 and 28 company auditions are canceled too.

Cedar Lake was founded in 2003 by Nancy Laurie, a Walmart heiress, and offered a prime contract to its dancers: 52 weeks of paid work along with health and dental insurance. The company was known for introducing European choreographers to U.S. audiences and pushing the limits of what seems physically possible onstage. There was a hiccup in 2013, when founding artistic director Benoit-Swan Pouffer left the company, but things seemed back on track by 2014 when Cedar Lake had appointed former ballet mistress Alexandra Damiani as artistic director. Thanks to its top-notch dancers and choreographers, Cedar Lake has long been at the forefront of what's proven to be a very popular European aesthetic in contemporary dance. So why did things fall apart?

Pouffer's exit in 2013 hints that there might have been tension between the artistic and executive branches of the company. The Observer and the New York Times both noted that the company suffered from labor disputes and unusual labor practices, like fining dancers who were late to class or who made mistakes during a performance.

Regardless of the way it treated its dancers, Cedar Lake was still a dream company for many students who were drawn to the troupe's mixed genres and styles. Once the company is gone there will be a gaping hole in the NYC and U.S. contemporary dance scenes—not to mention dozens of performers and administrators out of work and thousands of audience members who won't get to have their lives touched by spectacular dance. It seems like the single-patron model, no matter how extraordinarily wealthy that patron is, won't last forever.  RIP Cedar Lake.

Latest Posts


Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

"My Plate Is Full": Sofiane Sylve on Her New Leadership Roles at Ballet San Antonio and Dresden Semperoper

Sofiane Sylve had huge plans for 2020: Departing her post as a principal dancer at San Francisco Ballet, she embarked on a multifaceted, bicontinental career as ballet master and principal dancer at Dresden Semperoper Ballett, and artistic advisor and school director at Ballet San Antonio—and then COVID-19 hit, sidelining performances and administrative plans at both companies. But ballet dancers are nothing if not resilient. In her new leadership roles, Sylve is determined to help shepherd ballet through this challenging time—and transform it for the better. Pointe caught up with her by phone while she was in Dresden.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

The Anatomy of Arabesque: Why Placement and Turnout Are Key to Achieving This Crucial Position

Audition for any school or company, and they'll likely ask for a photo in arabesque. The position not only reveals a great deal about a dancer's ability, but it is also a fundamental building block for more advanced movements, like penché or arabesque turn. Beyond technique, it can be the epitome of grace and elegance onstage, creating unforgettable images—just try to imagine Swan Lake or Balanchine's Serenade without an arabesque.

Yet many dancers are unsatisfied with their arabesque lines, and students frequently ask how to improve their extensions. (Social media posts of dancers with extreme flexibility don't help!) In an attempt to lift the back leg higher, dancers may sacrifice placement and unknowingly distort their position in the process. How can you improve the height of your back leg while maintaining proper placement and turnout? We talked to a few experts to better understand the science behind this step.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks