Money can buy happiness, but so far it hasn’t bought Nancy Walton Laurie a dance company ready for prime time. Cedar Lake, funded by the Wal-Mart heiress, made its first appearance here two years ago; it’s come a long way, but in a strange direction. Having replaced its original artistic director with former Ailey dancer Benoit-Swan Pouffer and launched a useful 191-seat theater in Chelsea’s gallery district, it has 16 beautifully trained dancers, snazzy visual effects, and choreography that makes one long for simpler times, when dancing was about steps and moving through space. Edwaard Liang’s This Mortal Coil, to an impossibly loud collage score, strikes poses more than it moves, its bare-chested men manipulating, supporting, and restraining women in point shoes. The nine-part work segues confusingly into Jodie Gates’s Momentary Play: Sheer curtains drop from the ceiling to form cabanas in which dancers writhe while their video images play on the fabric. Dead moments in the work might be due to its improvisatory nature.
New director Pouffer stages Seeds, an extravaganza that apparently begins in a womb (represented by seven tall, curving video screens—a multimedia Stonehenge) and continues with a dancer wearing an umbilical sweater unraveled by offstage forces, plus playground games, workers with scythes, an animated spider, and French text. Strobe lights fail to clarify the static structures of the piece.