When Acacia Schachte calls the Georgia Straight from an Italian theatre at midnight her time, the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet member is equal parts exhilarated and exhausted from that night’s performance. The former Ballet B.C. star admits that even after nearly 15 years of being a professional dancer, she still gets anxious before a show. But her nerves went into hyperdrive when Hollywood came calling in 2010.
The lithe Schachte was the dance double for Emily Blunt in the film The Adjustment Bureau, with Matt Damon. Although Blunt trained for the role, Schachte did the tough stuff.
“It was very cool to get to work in a different medium,” Schachte says on the line from Turin, where the New York–based Cedar Lake was presenting the same program it’s bringing to Vancouver this weekend. “The actors were so comfortable working in that way, and I just wasn’t. With dance, I’m always nervous before, but once I’m on-stage I feel at home. With the movie, I couldn’t calm my nerves. But I’ve learned to use that energy in a positive way.”
Born in Santa Barbara, Schachte trained at Arts Umbrella before spending seven years with Ballet B.C. There, she performed challenging roles in works such as John Alleyne’s Carmina Burana and Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort. She left for New York in 2006. Besides having the opportunity to work on-set, being part of Cedar Lake—which the Huffington Post refers to as “ballet’s cool kids”—has helped Schachte hone her craft even more.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many choreographers,” she says. “I’ve learned so many qualities and different ways of moving. We’ll do very weighted movement, then pointe movement, then more theatrical stuff. It’s very well-rounded. I feel very lucky.”
Cedar Lake was founded in 2003 by Walmart heir Nancy Laurie, who, with a net worth of US$3.9 billion, bankrolls the troupe. Under the artistic direction of Paris native Benoît-Swan Pouffer, a former member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the troupe fuses classical ballet with modern dance. It has earned a reputation for a hip, high-velocity style that retains the kind of exacting technique that balletomanes crave.
When it appears in Vancouver, Cedar Lake will display its versatility in a mixed program with works by three distinct dance makers.
Schachte describes Violet Kid, by London, England’s Hofesh Shechter, a Sadler’s Wells Theatre associate artist, as a physically pummelling work for the entire company’s 16 members. “It’s very athletic, and everyone’s on-stage for half an hour,” she says. “He said from the outset he wanted to push us so hard. It brings out feelings of drive, determination, and struggle, and I can relate to those on a very human level.”
Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman’s Tuplet is a piece set to a throbbing electronic score and features six dancers using their bodies as percussion instruments. Vancouver’s own Crystal Pite, meanwhile, contributes Grace Engine, which a few critics have described as feeling like a movie, with its novel lighting and gripping action.
“I love dancing that piece,” Schachte says of the Kidd Pivot artistic director’s work for the full company. “It’s the first piece she did after having her baby. She gave us a lot of opportunity to create some of the movement ourselves. I feel I can be very emotional and open my heart. For me, the piece is about that feeling of appreciating and being in the moment.”
Schachte is fully expecting to experience preshow jitters when she performs in Vancouver, which she still considers home. (In New York, she’s rented an apartment next to Central Park so that she’s be reminded of our city’s abundant nature.)
“Sometimes I feel connected to the audience and it feels really good; other nights I’m more critical of myself,” she says. “All dancers are hard on themselves. It comes with the territory.
“I’m super-excited to finally come back to Vancouver,” she adds, “and super-nervous.”
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet performs at the Vancouver Playhouse on Friday and Saturday (September 28 and 29).