JACOB’S PILLOW DANCE FESTIVAL
Doris Duke Theatre
July 15, 2011
by Seth Rogovoy
(BECKET, Mass.) – Children, which may have been choreographed by Nigel Charnock and featured two dancers (the other being Patrick Lamothe) and which received its U.S. premiere this past weekend at Jacob’s Pillow, was nevertheless a showcase for Louise Lecavalier’s total artistry. While it may have been a pas de deux, it was for intents and purposes nevertheless a 50-minute solo by Lecavalier, Lamothe – who was terrific – merely acting as her echo and giving her someone or something to play off when needed. And while it may have been modern dance we were watching, it had the sum total effect of a ballet, really an epic dance, that did nothing less than trace the arc of a relationship from child’s play through courtship through lust, love, marriage, babies, dysfunction, and, in the end, transcendence.
All this was put forth through Lecavalier’s phenomenal performance, in which the 52-year-old dancer moved with the ease and agility of someone thirty years her junior, flinging herself around and onto the stage, whipping herself forward and back, tossing herself in the air and across the floor. She tossed a baton-like implement with the finesse of a teenaged Olympian mixing in sounds and movement from African dance, and then did a duet with her lover in a kind of abstracted “jazz dance” style, to which her vocabulary, with its precise use of hands and arms, is already suited.
But this wasn’t merely a display of physical virtuosity or style or athleticism; this was deeply grounded and profoundly emotional work, perhaps even autobiographical. One couldn’t imagine that imaginary 22-year-old taking the audience on such a journey with the intensity of focus and deep empathy that Lecavalier conveyed through her gesture and movement, boasting a range of expression from sexy to fiery to funny to violent to petulant to exhausted to exhilarated.
And the ballet, such as it is, was pitch-perfectly attuned to the score, which included recordings by Leonard Cohen (“Dance Me to the End of Love”), Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Richard Desjardins, Michael Nyman, Maria Callas singing Puccini, and Janis Joplin singing “A Piece of My Heart” – this last piece given added poignancy by the death last Wednesday of the man who penned it, soul/R&B songwriter/producer Jerry Ragovoy.
While dance should never be merely viewed as a sport or an exhibition, it’s hard to overstate how stunning a presence and specimen is Lecavalier. She left viewers breathless and wanting more. They got a little bit more after Children in a brief, 10-minute sampler called A Few Minutes of Lock, and by popular demand, even a bit more after the third curtain call, when she, Lamothe, and fellow dancer Keir Knight entertained with a comic bit out of the Three Stooges.
One certainly was left with the notion that Lecavalier could make any movement or any gesture into art, look good, and invested with meaning. Rare is a dancer who can draw upon such life experience, professional dance experience, raw physicality and beauty of expression and put it all together in a package that is rightly simply called Louise Lecavalier, as this dance company residency was billed.
Seth Rogovoy occasionally writes about dance for The Rogovoy Report.