Louise Lecavalier pulls off a tireless, physically pummelling evening
A DanceHouse presentation. At the Playhouse Theatre on Friday, November 4. No remaining performances
Louise Lecavalier is a dance icon for many reasons, as she displayed clearly in her first visit here in more than a dozen years. The 52-year-old former La La La Human Steps star is as muscular and agile as she’s ever been, with the kind of magnetism that you can only be born with. But more than anything, what comes across in her new program of duets is that she has the kind of boundless, tireless energy that defies logic.
She first appeared onstage, in Nigel Charnock’s Children, skittering around like a rabid ferret on her hands and feet, her hind end raised in the air, while strobe lights flashed and the music looped in an operatic cry. She flopped to the ground, then jumped up to start it all over again. Next thing you knew, she was grabbing a silver rod and whirling it around like a samurai before throwing herself into, onto, and under Patrick Lamothe for the next sweaty 50 minutes. The shorter piece on the two-part program, A Few Minutes of Lock, found her barrel jumping—the mid-air roll she’s famous for—over and over, often into partner Keir Knight’s arms. The woman never stops.
The big draw here—a full 18 years after Lecavalier left La La La Human Steps—was the chance to witness a true force of nature. Let’s not even talk about her age: with this muscular, body-crashing performance, she makes it utterly irrelevant.
Lecavalier commissioned Brit iconoclast Charnock to create Children, and it was a wild, throw-it-against-the-wall collection of vignettes set to an attention-deficient soundtrack: imagine a mix tape that ricochets from Billie Holiday to Janis Joplin to Leonard Cohen. Charnock was exploring the push-and-pull of a disintegrating relationship, but he was also clearly at play. Many of the vignettes experimented with props, from martial-arts sticks to flashlights to water bottles. The work was lightning fast, with endless partnering in which the couple failed to really connect. At one point Lecavalier hurtled across the stage to jump at Lamothe’s midsection, clinging to it horizontally. By the perspiration-soaked ending, she was pushing his exhausted body across the stage with her head or fruitlessly trying to roll his lifeless form on top of her own. The physically arduous feats were clearly a metaphor for the momentous struggles of a longterm relationship, but sometimes Children lacked emotional yearning.
The standout piece was A Few Minutes of Lock, Lecavalier’s excerpts from duets (Salt and 2) that she performed in her later time at La La La. Edouard Lock spent almost two years working on these pieces, and it showed. They were peppered with the visual fireworks of barrel jumps and muscular lifts, but chock full of intricate choreography. A Few Minutes opened with gorgeous sculptural lifts, Knight slowly heaving Lecavalier up with her back to him and legs arched up. They repeated and repeated until she was exploding into wild kicks in the air. You can tell from these late-’90s works that Lock was starting to become interested in ballet, adding delicate little flutters of the feet to his harder-edged and more explosive gestures. (We’ll get a chance to see where Lock has gone with that exploration when DanceHouse brings La La La Human Steps here in January.)
As the immediate standing O attested, Lecavalier remains a force to contend with. The biggest sign that she wasn’t tired out after this gruelling two-part session was over? In what was the first dance “encore” I’ve seen in this town, she and her two male partners threw themselves into a little riff that was like a choreographed, full-body game of pat-a-cake. And you got the distinct impression Lecavalier could have done the whole show over again, right then and there.