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.


Shannon Litzenberger said...

Great article Krista! I just saw the show tonight and it was, indeed, incredible.

Ed said...


Salvatore Antonio said...

What an exhilarating experience that was to behold. The energy and precision and artistry quite literally took my breath away at points. It was my first time seeing Mme. Lecavalier's work in person, and I now understand exactly why she has earned her reputation on the World Stage. I agree with much of what you said in your response; especially the resonance and lasting effect of the final moments of the first piece where they take turns inflating and deflating in each others attempted embrace. The nature of these dancers work seems to defy nature itself in so many respects. I am in awe.

Anonymous said...

absolutely stunning! I had seen her work only through television, never in person. I am grateful that I had an opportunity to see her perform live. Thank you!

Dan Daley said...

I was equally enthralled by this work. Both pieces offered a theatrical experience without resorting to much beyond choreography, music, refined costume and some props. Unlike some of the other dance works we have seen at Harbourfront which, in some cases, layered far more on top of the dance, I felt Louise Lecavalier and her choreographers simplified the work until we, the audience, were left with a wonderful set of stories to interpret on our own.

In particular, Children, offered a beautiful, tragic and comical depiction of early family life, raising a child and struggling to find intimacy. I really question the use of popular music in this piece. I thoroughly enjoyed the song choices, but felt it was a bit hard hitting. I worried that the lyrics were informing the movement more than the rhythm and beat. I could be really uninformed about this, but isn’t the focus of contemporary dance to transcend the qualities of the music, to step out of beat with it and be in contrast to it? I was always given hell when I created a movement piece using popular, lyric based, music in school. Someone tell me otherwise please!

I was also un-sure about the loud siren with strobe light that filtered in and out. Framing device I understand, but I never got a conclusion as to why this was such an important element. Were we meant to be shocked out of the romance and intimacy? Was it about destroying the warmth of the popular music?

A Few Minutes of Lock, really got my heart pounding. For any who are La La La fans this piece offers a wonderful tribute to the work of Lock. It’s dark and aggressive. Unlike Children, where we got lots of facial expression and suggestive behaviour from the dancers, this segment was straight-faced and powerful. Dancer Keir Knight was a looming majestic figure standing way upstage, back-lit, and ready to catch Mme. Lecavalier at any moment.

As a throw back to early days, watch this video… it’s radical.

Hannah Cheesman said...

I imagine there is little more I could say in contrast to the praise that has already been bestowed upon Lecavalier and the work that was shown last week within World Stage's season. More than anything, Lecavalier's ability to flit between each movement, her agility and speed: these were almost non-human. During talk-back, Lecavalier spoke of being interested less in the form or the shapes she was creating, and more in its expression, and an exposing of a/her character within the movement. That someone could possess the physical and theoretical (whether one envisions this as emotional, spiritual, intellectual---really it could be all) capacity to embody all of this was a thrill to see. It is indeed rare that this kind of power, humility, and fearlessness is seen onstage. This was not only a pleasure to witness, but a true experience to have had.

Mariel Marshall said...

Krista your article makes me shiver because it hits the experience on the mark. I'm so lucky I got to see the piece twice because once just wasn't enough. It's a piece with intensity, energy and emotion that is unparalled. It was a visceral experience for me and I could feel the raw energy emanating from the stage.

I am curious about how to translate Louise Lacavalier's type of energy into more text based theatre work. How can theatre makers channel this kind of unharnessed and visceral energy? I have seen a few theatre pieces the last couple of weeks and I can hardly recall what they were about - but Louise Lacavalier stands out in my head vividly. Her stories, created with her body, were more compelling than most of the theatre I've seen on the stage this season. I'm determined that this kind of energy can exist outside of the dance world, the question is how?

Unknown said...

Louise Lacavalier is a soldier, indeed. What she has done to her body on the dance floor, via operations so she can keep dancing, is a service to her audience. Seeing her move was a pleasure but the choreography in Children left me perplexed. From the playful animal-like entrance on all fours I saw the dancers moving in pure child. The intermittent siren implied a parental control signalling when the fun must end or evolve into something more 'grown up.' And indeed, the children the dancers represented aged as the size of the water bottles introduced on stage increased but the relationship remained sibling in nature, for me - the central conflict being who will grow up first. Even the Romeo and Juliet ending with each feigning death while animating the others lifeless body felt like a tragic drama being acted out in the sandbox. The discovery of props throughout was at first exciting and then distracting and while I found the dancers engaging this piece left me wanting more of its suggested narrative.

The Few Minutes of Lock we were treated to, however, rocked my world. Gone was my need to understand context and I found myself sit up and take notice of the actions being carried out on stage. The introduction of a third dancer fuelled the dynamics and the intricate and detailed movement got me out of my brain and planted firmly in my heart. I was fully engaged in something transitory yet full of meaning and it was a pleasure to be taken on that ride. Long live Louise Lecavalier!