She spirals, vibrates, gyres in space. When stopping for breath, she looks out at the audience, her gaze direct, yet also startled and vulnerable, as if seeking understanding of the fierce spirit of the dance consuming and driving her.
But there is no logic here, not in the traditional sense of the word.
The body is the brain, and its circuitous pathways, its elliptical jumps and jags, yank Louise Lecavalier through a spiralling journey. Unfettered dance, in other words, is the main idea behind So Blue, a maverick piece of choreography which the unstoppable Lecavalier brought this past week to Toronto’s Luminato Festival.
Lecavalier is well-loved, and for good reason.
The petite and propulsive platinum blonde is best known for having been muse to Édouard Lock, the internationally acclaimed Montreal choreographer whose La La La Humans Steps she fronted as lead dancer from 1981 to 1999.
Since parting from Lockat the eve of the new millennium, the now 55-year old dancer has gone on to become a mother of twin girls (now 13 years old) and the founder of her own Fou Glorieux (roughly translated as a glorious madness) dance company which she created to foster new choreographic creation with her at the centre.
The enterprise has since attracted Canadian contemporary choreographers Crystal Pite, Tedd Robinson and Benoît Lachambre as well as England’s late body poet Nigel Charnock, a founding member of DV8 Physical Theatre, each of them, like Lock before them, producing work directly influenced by Lecavalier’s jet-fuelled physicality.
But this time the muse has become her own master.
So Blue is a work she created herself and for herself. Produced by Fou Glorieux with the backing of Dusseldorf’s tanzhouse nrw, the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, Dresden’s Hellerau, Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, Montreal’s Festival TransAmériques and Creative Residency: Szene Salzburg, it debuted in 2012. The Luminato series of performances which concluded on Sunday marked the work’s Toronto premiere and it confirmed Lecavalier’s status as a dance artist of explosive presence. Whether it advanced Lecavalier as new choreographic talent, however, is debatable.
While fantastically physical and, at times, disquietingly vulnerable, the work appears to be something which only the inimitable Lecavalier could do justice. This is not a piece she could – or even should – teach to others. Its power is its performer. Which is also what makes it unique. So Blue is so great because it functions, for the most part, as a vehicle for Lecavalier’s unique talents.
And yet no dancer dances alone, even when performing solo.
So Blue, its creation anyway, is very much a group effort. Its driving techno beat (serving simultaneously as a directional force and a metaphor for the life-affirming tick of the human heart) comes courtesy Mercan Dede (a.k.a. Arkin Allen), a Montreal-based world music composer and DJ combining the serpentine cadences of Turkish Ottoman music with the hammering electronic boom beats born of digitized nightclubs, including fragments of disco band of the moment, Daft Punk.
Alain Lortie’s lighting provides the blue in the title, an Yves Klein wash of colour filling in winding corridors demarcated with tape on the dance floor. Lecavalier’s easy-on, easy-off costume of sleeveless V-neck T-shirt and loose-fitting racing stripe pants is by androgynous Montreal fashion designer, Yso. Also assisting behind-the-scenes is dance mistress and rehearsal director, France Bruyère, who doubtless gave the dancer-turned-choreographer direction is structuring the rhythmic, syncopated sections of movement springing, seemingly spontaneously, from her dancing body. Onstage, Lecavalier only occasionally is joined by performance partner Frédéric Tavernini, a hulking masculine presence providing an animal-like foil to Lecavalier’s firefly persona. He knuckles toward her on all fours her like a baboon while she flits around him, eventually lying on his back. Theirs is a mesmerizing duet, part abstraction, part erotic attraction.
But for the most part, Lecavalier dances alone and like one possessed, rocked forward and back by the demonic drive of the accompanying score. At times, she stumbles forward, looking dazed with exhaustion before turning to feast briefly on the cooling breezes provided by an onstage electric fan, So Blue’s only prop.
And yet this is not a one-note performance. In the middle of an energy burst, Lecavalier manages to contain her own supernova of limbs, head and hair flicked violently forward and back within a sustained headstand representing the exploding cosmos of the body come to rest. Upside down, Lecavalier’s shirt falls to reveal her pale stomach. The eye becomes focused on her taut muscles, her lungs inflating and deflating, the heart visibly pounding against the drum of the flesh. A portrait of the dancer as a pulsating star.