Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s Benoit-Swan Pouffer keeps dance alive


POETRY IN MOTION | The style of dance practiced by Cedar Lake combines both classical techniques and modern ideas — which has helped make its artistic director, Benoit-Swan Pouffer, a force in dance.

Screen shot 2013-02-06 at 4.21.25 PMBenoit-Swan Pouffer spent seven years with the Alvin Ailey troupe as a dancer prior to joining Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet as its artistic director. Since then, the French-born choreographer (he still speaks in a thick, charming accent), has helped bring the company national recognition, from tours to Dallas (Saturday at the Winspear will mark the third time here) to being featured in the 2011 film The Adjustment Bureau. We took a few minutes to ask the gay dance icon about making his art fresh for a variety of audiences.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Voice: The last time I saw you wasn’t onstage, but on screen in The Adjustment Bureau! What was that experience like?  Pouffer: That was a first [for me] and a great experience. I was actually involved in the production and teaching [star] Emily Blunt [to dance]. It was an excellent opportunity for me to teach someone while discovering a different media where you can let an audience [see what you do].

It seems dance has gotten a lot more attention in movies in recent years, with Black Swan … And on TV. I feel there is an awareness [of dance] insofar as moviemakers and TV producers are concerned, for the chance for the masses to experience it.

Your company has both the words “contemporary” and “ballet” in its name. Do you feel that confuses people or makes what you do a harder sell?  People use these terms when they can’t define the technique. We do ballet every day [at the company] — my dancers know how to dance in point shoes, but we don’t do just ballet.  And contemporary for me means just what’s happening now, what’s present. I see lots of dance myself and make sure I am up-to-date and stay in touch with my dancers and what they yearn for.

When you travel to a city like Dallas, what goes into deciding what to put on the program? A lot of consideration as far as where we are performing. I put myself in the audience’s shoes. It is very thought out. This is the third time we are coming to Dallas — the last was with an installation I created. I wanted to create a diverse program because they have seen us before. I want to keep it fresh. It is a challenge, but we are a new company so I am not in a place to say we have done it all. We have just touched the tip of the iceberg.

I think Dallas audiences have seen a lot of dance coming through so it is really wonderful to be appreciated because they are an educated [audience]. It is a place where you can push the boundaries and they appreciate that.

One of the pieces you are bringing is called Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue, but many of the pairings are same-sex. Is that the kind of boundaries you are pushing? There are Male-male, male-female and female-female duets, but when Crystal [Pite, who choreographed the piece] created this for us I likened it to how can you convey feelings through body language. It’s about rescuing — a brother, a sister — so I don’t think sex comes into it. We are just human beings, trying to push that imagery.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 8, 2013.