Louise Lecavalier: Daredevil Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow
Dance review by Bess J.M. Hochstein
Photos: Andre Cornellier
Louise Lecavalier is petite, more than 50 years old, sinewy and muscled, and a dare devil dancer with a stage presence that grabs your attention and never lets it go – not only when she is moving with complete physical abandon, but also in emotionally fraught stillness. Lecavalier is making her Jacob’s Pillow debut this week with two dances: Children, choreographed by Nigel Charnock, and A Few Minutes of Lock, reconstructed excerpts of work by choreographer Édouard Lock, leader of the seminal 1980s/90s Montreal-based dance company La La La Human Steps.
Children presents intense motion and emotion, driven by ideas. On a bare stage with spare, shifting, dramatic white lights, Lecavalier and Patrick Lamothe appear to portray a couple going through the fluctuating dynamics of a volatile relationship, repeatedly drawing the other closer then pushing the other away, relaxing into each other and stiffening, shifting roles between the one who collapses and the one who provides support. Moods shift with the soundtrack, which ranges from Lenonard Cohen to Miles Davis to Janis Joplin to Billie Holiday, transitions often marked by a recording of Maria Callas gratingly stuck on one note, accompanied by a strobe light. Simple props come into play: flashlights used to tease, taunt and illuminate; a camera flash; pillows that may or may not represent a newborn child; and wooden staffs that transform from weapons to toys. Late in the piece, when the two dancers dump a bottle of water on each other, it’s an act of simultaneous loving care and hostility.
The work’s title explicitly implies that adult couples often act like children, playing mind games with each other, a concept that’s reinforced when the soundtrack shifts to voices of children playing. And while there are a few fluid, playful segments in Children, this is rough territory. It’s not a pretty dance, but there are many moments of beauty, and the intensity of the dancing makes it engaging throughout.
A Few Minutes of Lock makes you wish for many minutes more, but it’s hard to imagine that the dancers could endure it. Lecavalier was Lock’s muse at La La La Human Steps, and given her commitment to the beyond-challenging material, we can see why. She gives herself over completely to this rapid, risky choreography, in which it looks like one false move by her or her partner, Keir Knight, could result in injury.
In these few fraugth minutes, set to instrumental music by Iggy Pop, she is repeatedly tossed, spinning horizontally in the air, and caught milliseconds before her head hits the floor. She is spun away and pulled back, not limp-bodied, but with an angular, gritty sharpness. Knight takes similar risks, as Lecavalier jumps in place over him while he sweeps his torso low to the ground, and it all happens so fast, with split-seond timing, that you can hardly trust your eyes. It’s a multiple gasp-inducing experience. When it’s over, the relief in Knight’s eyes is palpable. This is breathtaking dance that leaves both the performers and the audience breathless.
Photo: Massimo Chiarradia©
Louise Lecavalier in the Doris Duke Theatre
Now through July 16
Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA