Saturday, June 14, 2014

Review: (Toronto / Dance) So Blue (Luminato)

(photo by André Cornellier)

So Blue: A review OR A treatise on the dynamism and athleticism of Louise Lecavalier 
by Kallee Lins

Lecavalier’s accolades speak for themselves. She was the first Canadian to win a Bessie Award (1983) and the first dancer—rather than a choreographer—to receive the Jean A. Chalmers National Award (1999). She has been appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada (2008), the French Critics’ Union named her “Dance Personality of the Year 2010-2011,” and in the same season, she won the Prix de la danse de Montréal. 

Lecavalier rose to prominence as a star of Édouard Lock’s La La La Human Steps. A dancer with the company for more than 18 years, she appeared in all of their iconic productions until 1999 including the international sensation Human Sex (1985). She has appeared on stages around the world, in films, music videos and concert tours, most notably performing with David Bowie (check out Bowie’s video for Fame)—leaving no doubt that she is one of the few, veritable rock stars of contemporary dance.

All that to say it is astounding that So Blue is her first choreographic work. Premiering in 2012 and touring since, the hour-long So Blue is split between a dizzying solo performed by Lecavalier herself, and a duo in which she is joined by Frédéric Tavernini.
This is clearly a performance created by someone who defines herself as a dancer first, choreographer second. Lecavalier bombards the audience with nearly constant, frenetic movement, allowing her body to speak to the audience, but without any excessive concern for what it has to say. Montréal-based Mercan Dede composed a pulsing, electronic soundtrack for the solo section, which pushes the movement forward with rapid snare rhythms. Lecavalier covers the space with quick, occasionally Latin-inspired footwork that never misses a beat. If she stops moving momentarily, it is only to move the music’s pulse elsewhere in her body. It’s as if the rhythm gets trapped insider her like a tick she’s unable to shake off. It moves throughout her body, manifesting in a quickly undulating torso or a quivering leg.

The intrigue of Lecavalier’s movement comes from her ability to carry multiple movement qualities and rhythms in different parts of her body simultaneously. There is one sequence in which she stands on one leg, quickly displacing her foot inch-by-inch to propel herself across the stage. It’s easy to overlook the strength and control needed for such a task when you’re busy watching her upper body carve the space around her with such clarity. Even as she’s dancing at a breakneck pace, she never loses her specificity of line and an eye toward compelling shape. 

One of the most enduring maxims of dance is to hide the effort it takes to carry out a dancer’s job. In So Blue, Lecavalier has torn this page out of the rulebook with great effect, even comically playing up the physical demands of her choreography by walking over to a fan at the corner of the stage to cool off. 

Hers is a body that is drawn to precarious limits, and when she finds them, she pushes beyond them—moving her body faster or tossing it further off-balance. By initiating movement from her limbs and head, and subsequently allowing the rest of her body to follow in its path, she manages to give the illusion that her body loses control of itself. Her movement appears simultaneously strong yet unrestrained, spastic yet minutely controlled. It’s easy to get lost in such a storm of movement, so Lecavalier offers up a lengthy headstand to make the strength required for this piece emphatically evident. With every breath we witness her oblique muscles contracting around her core, the contraction intensifying as her legs play in the air. 

Tavernini and Lecavalier make a fascinating pairing in the second half of the show. Tavernini’s tall, broad body makes it evident how diminutive Lecavalier really is. The two begin dancing very close together, constrained within a rectangular box of light. Her sharp, quick movements appear even more extreme against Tavernini’s curved, undulating motions performed with an equal amount of technical prowess. The duet, continuing at an equally fast pace, makes for incredibly impressive contact work. Lecavalier never quite gives her body entirely to Tavernini; she maintains her constant slashing and carving of space while negotiating with his limbs. Amidst so much movement, Tavernini’s dragging, tossing and other manipulations of Lecavalier’s body are given only fleeting seconds in which to occur. The solo is impressive, but when another body is thrown into the mix, the extreme detail, precision and danger of this choreography really shines. 

June 13 - 15

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