The Monument: A Response by Peter Kingstone

World Stage Embassy members have been contributing writing to Time and Space about the programming in the 2010/2011 World Stage series at Harbourfront Centre. For the final show in the season, Embassy member Peter Kingstone made a video blog instead of a written post. Here's his response to Rwandan company Isoko Theatre's production of The Monument, written by Colleen Wagner and directed by Jen Capraru.

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Louise Lacavalier/Fou Glorieux: A Response by Krista Posyniak

As the house lights came up, I tried to turn and put my coat back on. Instead, I found myself slumped down in my seat with tears streaming down my face. I was sure I had just witnessed a miraculous event. This woman, and her partners, had just defied gravity. They created such energy and emotion without so much as a curl of their lips. These stories I experienced were told through the body; the extreme and exact movement Louise Lecavalier, her partners, and her collaborators create, to evoke curiosity without a verbal command or suggestive facial expression.

“At one point, I actually forced myself to stop watching her and watch her partner [Keir Knight]. He was working hard!” I overheard this comment from an audience member regarding the second piece in Louise Lacavalier/Fou Glorieux double bill Children &  A Few Minutes of Lock, presented by Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage.

Lecavalier is truly a mesmerizing performer, but not in the sense where your eyes glaze over and you just fall into a daze. You won’t; she doesn’t let you. Lacavalier dances with the recklessness of a French Canadian dancer and performs with the precision of a soldier. The moment she steps on stage, her energy blares like a fog horn; you can’t miss her. It is as though she sends out all of her energy into the audience, and then pulls it [her energy] back in, to spiral the audience into another captivating sequence of movement.

Known as the muse of Edouard Lock’s La La La Human Steps, Lecavalier is a Canadian contemporary dance icon. Spanning 19 years with Lock’s company, she defined the company’s dazzling physicality and technical precision, and performed in their every creation, including a tour and music video with David Bowie. Upon her departure from La La in 1999, Lacavalier began working as an independent artist, founding her company Fou Glorieux. Her recent collaborations and commissions include Canadian artists BenoĆ®t Lachambre, Crystal Pite, and Tedd Robinson.

The first piece Children, choreographed by Nigel Charnock, is an abstraction of two people “plunged into the agony and the ecstasy of trying to stay together for themselves and for their children”, as described by the choreographer. His ideas entertain between animal-like reactions and survival, to pillow talk, to exhaustion, to the feelings of loneliness, loss and holding on. This is all set to a soundtrack of popular songs, eerie operatic tones and a mish-mash of recordings evoking young children communicating. Charnock’s choreography is vibrant and animalistic at first, gestural and fun; it is also wandering, and occasionally, showy and presentational. 

I understand the significance of seeing two people struggle or enjoy their situation simultaneously; however, it doesn’t give much depth to the piece if they are looking out towards the audience at the same time. The use of props seems superficial and, while “entertaining” at times, I didn’t feel like the movement indicated enough support for their use, or at least how their uses were explored. 

The ending is a strikingly beautiful image, where physicality reigns over emotion. I watched as one dancer tried to hold onto, enliven and embrace the other only to be left with a lifeless, doll-like body in return. It wasn’t until the lights were fading and the couple was slow dancing that I realized what an effect the last physical relationship had on my emotional state. Both Lacavalier and her partner Patrick Lamothe embody such emotional depth, purely through their physicality, that I felt their struggle in that last moment twist up inside me like knots in my stomach.

Lacavalier dives and wrestles her way across the stage with such direction that I can only begin to imagine the map of choreography she had laid out in her head. And in that, her partners, both male, must also be commended, as they follow her and support her every move. This is particularly evident in A Few Minutes of Lock, where Lacavalier propels her body through space and her partner, Keir Knight, catches her... every time. The work is purely physical and absolutely exact. 

The lighting suggests that the audience is meant to see the body and dynamics of the limbs and torso, as opposed to the person inside of the dance, as the dancers’ are back lit for half of the piece. Even when the light shines onto their faces, their expressions are neutral, giving attention to the form, the technique and direction of bodies in space. Lacavalier is a master of these elements. Her decision to revisit these excerpts from Lock’s work is clearly defined in the program notes, as her “wish to discover what the body remembers or doesn’t remember, to know what memory has let go, flattened, or embellished”. 

Dance is a fleeting art, asking the body to experience a muscular movement in the exact same way each time, with the same emotional response. While a dancer trains to perform this way, the task is almost impossible. As the body ages, so does the method of the physicality in the work. Since the body is the tool, the work is ever-changing, even if the steps stay the same. This is what makes dance, and it’s performer, so precious and rare. In A Few Minutes of Lock Lacavalier is revisiting the work that ignited her career and defined her as a performer. Known for her quick, precise movement and flying-horizontal barrel rolls in Lock’s work, it is probably as satisfying to perform the work, again, as it is for her audience to watch Lacavalier in it.

Children & A Few Minutes of Lock runs April 13-16, 2011 at Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage. Louise Lacavalier/Fou Glorieux will continue to tour across Canada and throughout Europe this year.

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