Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
July 14, 2011
Louise Lecavalier and Patrick Lamothe in Nigel Charnock’s
Children. Photo by Andre Cornellier, courtesy Jacob’s Pillow.
With outrageous daring expressed in relentless acrobatics and an androgynous eroticism, Louise Lecavalier made her mark over 25 years ago as the signature dancer of Canadian choreographer Édouard Lock’s La La La Human Steps. This summer, her first at the Pillow, Lecavalier revealed a more nuanced persona. In the American premiere of Children (2009), British choreographer Nigel Charnock (formerly of DV8 and no stranger to death-defying physicality) offered Lecavalier a rich palette of physical and emotional challenges that she and her partner Patrick Lamothe explored with both fervor and subtlety. A memorable selection of music including Miles Davis, Leonard Cohen, Maria Callas, and Janis Joplin, as well as the sounds of children laughing, provided the dominating rhythms for the dancing and apparently determined the many aspects of their evolving relationship. Fashioned into discreet sections, Lecavalier and Lamothe explored the ways in which, even as adults, to quote Charnock, “we are all children.”
Looking every bit the rambunctious chimp or energetic toddler, Lecavalier scrambled around the stage on all fours. Rolling, jumping, sliding, propelling herself into and out of the floor, she collapsed breathless on her back only to start all over again. Lamothe made his first appearance invasively photographing her with a flash camera. A growing self-consciousness emerged as Lecavalier scanned herself in an imaginary mirror—the audience. In their duets, moving in unison facing front or each other, Lecavalier and Lamothe often appeared propelled by exterior forces, their bodies ricocheting off each other into space and then magnetically fusing together. Dragging or lifting one another, they might be alternately aggressive or amorous. Referencing the tomb scene from any number of Romeo and Juliet ballets, they were particularly poignant. Although not perfectly matched partners—she embodied the technicalities with greater clarity—this disparity was not a distraction.
Props were integral to the piece. Lecavalier used sticks to practice her baton twirling, to playfully wage combat with Lamothe in one sequence and to embrace and entrap him in another. He tried to catch her as she held him in the glare of two flashlights. Flying pillows and water bottles delivered some humor. Children was not a perfect work—perhaps a shade too long—but it struck a chord more often than not.
For A Few Minutes of Lock (2009), another U. S. premiere, Lecavalier and artistic advisor France Bruyère combined two extreme excerpts from Lock’s choreography. Performed with the most agile and attentive Keir Knight, and briefly Lamothe, this was the daredevil dancing that once identified Lecavalier: hair-raising leaps into Knight’s arms, then suspended totally still in any number of dramatic poses, a sudden flurry of accelerated flips and rolls, and then another dash into his arms. It was an exhausting “few minutes” in which no one was harmed.