Louise Lecavalier is rad. While most 54 year old women spent last Thursday night with Netflix and a bottle of red (not judging – that sounds great to me too), Lecavalier was dancing her guts out to a packed Théâtre Maisonneuve audience of 1,453 who responded in kind with a unanimous standing ovation. It was the final show of this year’s Festival TransAmériques, and it went out with a bang.
A veteran dancer who spent 20 years as the muse of Édouard Lock (La La La Human Steps), Lecavalier is now breaking out into the world of choreography with alacrity. She featured in now-famous works for La La La Human Steps like Human Sex, New Demons, and Infante, collaborated with artists like Frank Zappa and embodied a new wave of contemporary dance that was taking root at the time; grittier, more raw and less bound up with the constraints of ballet prettiness. These days, with her platinum quiff and androgynous frame, she looks like a futuristic hybrid of David Bowie and Le Petit Prince. And like both figures, she has long been considered royalty in certain circles. It’s pretty easy to bandy about words like “iconic” when talking about Ms Lecavalier and her illustrious career to date.
Now, I don’t want to lean too heavily on her age and pedigree as a basis for critique – it feels too close to platitudes like “You look really good… for your age.” Bleugh. Let’s talk about the work itself.
In talking about So Blue, Lecavalier says; “I wanted to allow the body to say everything it wants to say… without censoring it, so that out of this profusion of spontaneous movements something true and beyond our control emerges.” So Blue fulfills this aim with jolts of almost epileptic movement – a shuddering beam of electric energy feeding through her wiry limbs. I got the sense that Lecavalier was dancing equally for herself as for the audience, and there was a deeply personal element to her work that I liked. But however personal it may have been, I read the piece as being fairly abstract: movement for the sake of exploration, without pretense or edifice. I was perhaps expecting more pyrotechnics out of the choreography, maybe more leaps, more lifts. But the movement vocabulary centered on a jittery array of lightning-quick small movements instead. Her costume was a simple black tracksuit, and mid-performance she changed one sweaty top for a dry one. She took a long chug on a bottle of water. Then zipped up her top and got on with the job at hand.
Although the spotlight was pretty firmly trained on Lecavalier throughout, she had several talented collaborators for So Blue, who collectively sit under the umbrella of her aptly named company, Fou glorieux. Dancing with her in the second half of the 60-minute performance was Frédéric Tavernini, a Montréal-based French dancer and choreographer. Tavernini and Lecavalier have danced together before, in Tedd Robinson’s Cobalt Rouge, and they share the stage well. He is a dancer who eats up space and attacks the choreography, but with a slightly more laid-back demeanor than the electric Lecavalier. The interplay works well, particularly once they engage in the kind of partnering that both are known for. In creating So Blue, Lecavalier was assisted by her rehearsal director, France Bruyere, whom I gather must have been crucial in the process of creating and interpreting simultaneously. Mercan Dede (A.K.A Arkin Allen), a Montréal composer of Turkish origin, composed the soundtrack for the piece. The music got a little 1999 outdoor dance party for me at times (I found myself wondering where I had mislaid my glow sticks). But threaded through this high-octane sensibility were a strong middle-eastern style and, strangely, several segments from the Kill Bill soundtrack.
It’s easy to get lost in a piece like So Blue, and to watch a true deity of dance throw herself into her own choreography with such rebellion and playfulness. Is Louise Lecavalier immortal, perhaps? We’ll just have to wait and see.