Is You Me is a multimedia dance piece created and performed by an unlikely hometown pair, Benoît Lachambre and Louise Lecavalier. Both have star-power in their respective worlds – his an experimental cool-kids Europe stemming from “downtown” New York improvisation; hers an iconic contemporary dance career with La La La Human Steps.
But together they have made something radically smaller-than-life, a mischievous little duet in a 2D-world, where two paper cut-out people go about their odd cartoon way.
The stage is a blank, horizontal canvas on a tilt. Live computer graphics by Laurent Goldring animate it throughout – swirling confetti-like specks, naive pencil drawings, blotchy, blocky paint jobs, spongy erasings. Lachambre and Lecavalier, dressed in black and white hooded luge tops and track pants, spend most of the first half peeling up from and flattening themselves against these projections. They bobble their heads quizzically and meet awkwardly, get their legs tangled up and lose against the slope, sliding.
At one point, Lachambre interrogates the appearance of his shadow against a video projection of a windshield pelted by rain. Next, Lecavalier re-enters a blackened scene and, with a miraculously jiggly lower body, seems to scribble white lines all over the stage. In a later vignette, they lift into 3D to don bright yellow and green outfits, their hoodies stretched up high with what one might imagine to be neck stilts. The two careen around like a couple of Gumbys sculpted by Giacommetti – a memorable scene of dumb dawdling.
Throughout Is You Me, Lecavalier and Lachambre create simple, impish moments alone and with each other. Some passages are redundant but the human ink blots do mesmerize. Using a few costume changes – Lecavalier turning her sneakers the wrong way around, Lachambre shrinking out of his pants and leaving deflated ‘legs‘ on stage – they capitalize on the narrowness of our perception of human form to produce some trippy imagery that outdoes, to smart effect, Goldring’s live doodles: These two drawn people seem to do what drawings only wished they could. It seems unjust, then, that the crayons get the climax in the end.
The dancing is most captivating when hyperactive, when Hahn Rowe, the live musician and composer, lays down a beat. Wide, bobbing stances produce all kinds of jerky angles, elbows and arms jutting about in stop-motion, heads wobbling like volume meters on an amplifier. The movement is remarkable in that it is, while disciplined, entirely without affectation, style or theatricality (appropriately, Lachambre and Lecavalier dance with their faces obscured and backs to the audience most of the time), and at several moments achieve riveting effect. Strangely satisfying honed-in performances from dancers, especially Lecavalier, who can “technically” and expressively do much more.
Is You Me was created in Montreal in 2008 by Lachambre, Lecavalier, Rowe and Goldring – under the auspices of Lachambre’s collaborative company Par B.L.eux – and after a worldwide tour, has its last run here at Usine C.
Is You Me, September 23-26, 8 pm at Usine C, 1345 Ave. Lalonde. Tickets at 514 521-4493 or at the box office.