(Dance Review) Louise Lecavalier at Jacob’s Pillow

Louise Lecavalier and Keir Knight in 'A Few Minutes of Lock' (photo Massimo Chiarradia)
Louise Lecavalier and Keir Knight in ‘A Few Minutes of Lock’ (photo Massimo Chiarradia)

JACOB’S PILLOW DANCE FESTIVAL
Doris Duke Theatre
Louise Lecavalier
July 14, 2011

Review by Anna Rogovoy

(BECKET, Mass.) – Watching A Few Minutes of Lock, one falls under the impression that Louise Lecavalier is not susceptible to gravity. As she flings her small, muscular body into the air, into the arms of dancer Keir Knight, or onto the floor, there is a sense of abandon that recalls performances of contact improvisation. The way she spirals against the floor, allowing the natural circular movements of her body to absorb the shock of impact, appears at once organic and inhuman. Her unpredictable shifts from slow movements to sharp, staccato gestures are superhuman as well; to look away from Lecavalier for one moment is to miss a dozen motions flickering past. The silken electricity of her movement in Minutes of Lock speaks to her reign as a “rock star of the dance world” (as introduced by Jacob’s Pillow director Ella Baff, a rock star in her own right) and as the muse of La La La Human Steps director Edouard Lock, to whom the title of the work alludes.

We watch A Few Minutes of Lock, running through Saturday, July 16, at the Doris Duke Theatre, having already fallen in love with Louise Lecavalier. This relatively brief work is preceded on the program by the U.S. premiere of Nigel Charnock’s Children, a duet performed by Lecavalier with Patrick Lamothe. Children begins with a shrill electronic drone, a flickering strobe light, and Lecavalier running on all fours, dressed in black, her blonde hair loose. She throws herself up and down with the playful abandon of a child who has not yet learned to be afraid of bruises. Floppy but still controlled in her physicality, she is both animalistic and completely human. In what will become a repeated motif, she ends this first solo standing, facing the audience, looking long and hard at us. There is inquiry on her face, curiosity, as if she were about to open her mouth and ask us what we thought.

Louise Lecavalier and Patrick Lamothe in 'Children' (photo Andre Cornellier)

Louise Lecavalier and Patrick Lamothe in 'Children' (photo Andre Cornellier)

This curiosity continues to drive the work as Lecavalier is joined onstage by Lamothe, a fine dancer who hardly manages to appear anything but convenient beside his intensely enigmatic partner. They move in unison phrases, then in fast, physically intense partnering; they lead each other from place to place and use handheld lights to illuminate each others’ movements. Charnock’s choreography is at once quirky and unpretentious, and Lecavalier and Lamothe play it straight, while allowing for an inherently human comedy to peek through every so often. This comedy, as well as Lecavalier’s articulate yet casual movement style and the fabulously witty music choices (duets to Billie Holiday’s “Getting Some Fun Out of Life” and Janis Joplin’s version of Jerry Ragovoy’s “A Piece of My Heart” stand out), call to mind the performances of a standout artist from last year’s festival: Monica Bill Barnes.

The music, the lighting, the use of props such as water bottles (empty and full), pillows, and long sticks — they are all perfectly matched. The relationship between Lecavalier and Lamothe evolves beautifully, from playful aggression to sexual frustration to poignant longing. To a ballad sung by Maria Callas, they throw water into the air above their heads and collapse, each taking turns at being shaken, cajoled, and revived by the other until they both stand, locked in an embrace, rocking slowly on their feet as the lights slowly fade. They have grown up, and the notes included in the program from Nigel Charnock reverberate in our minds: “What have you lost? You have lost nothing. Stop looking. It is already perfect.” And so it is.

 

Anna Rogovoy is The Rogovoy Report’s chief dance critic. She studies dance, literature and writing at Bennington College.

 

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