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


Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Fancy Free" (1981)

In Jerome Robbins's 1944 ballet Fancy Free, three sailors on leave spend the day at a bar, attempting to woo two young women by out-dancing and out-charming one another. In this clip from 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then both the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and a leading performer with the company, pulls out all the stops to win the ladies' affections.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

An Infectious-Disease Physician on What Vaccines Mean for Ballet

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds into its second year, the toll on ballet companies—and dancers—has been steep. How long before dancers can rehearse and perform as they once did?

Like most things, the return to normal for ballet seems to hinge on vaccinations. Just over 22 percent of people in the U.S. are now vaccinated, a way from the estimated 70 to 85 percent experts believe can bring back something similar to pre-pandemic life.

But what would it mean for 100 percent of a ballet company to be vaccinated? Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini is about to find out—and hopes it brings the return of big ballets on the big stage.

"I don't think companies like ours can survive doing work for eight dancers in masks," Angelini says. "If we want to work, dance, and be in front of an audience consistently and with the large works that pay the bills, immunization is the only road that leads there."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks