One Yellow Rabbit presents Louise Lecavalier in So Blue
8pm, Jan 5-7, Decidedly Jazz Dance Centre, 111 12th Ave SE
Part of the 2017 High Performance Rodeo, Calgary’s International Festival of the Performing Arts
Louise Lecavalier has been dancing long enough to know that when it came time to choreograph her first full length piece, to leave a few blank spaces to be filled in later – right up until the point where it started to unnerve her.
That was the thought process the Montreal dance icon, part of La La La Human Steps for almost two decades, went through in those first, anxious days she set out to create So Blue, which she performs (with Frederic Tavernini) at the 2017 High Performance Rodeo starting Thursday night at the new DJD Centre.
It’s a special event for the Rodeo, presenting a dancer who has been named to the Order of Canada, won a Governor General’s Award for the Performing Arts, a Bessie Award (New York), the Jean A. Chalmers National Dance Award, a few others too numerous to mention – not to mention dancing in videos with the likes of Bowie and Frank Zappa.
“It’s a little bit intimidating to receive prizes,” she said, in a 2014 interview I did with her for the Calgary Herald, “but I move on because there’s shows to do, there’s touring, new projects, so it’s OK. You must not think about prizes too much.”
Since unveiling So Blue in Montreal in 2014, Lecavalier has performed it in 15 countries, where it has won numerous additional awards – so it’s kind of simplying things, in a way, to look back on the genesis of a piece of innovative, kinetic choreography and talk about it as if she had every step charted before setting foot on the rehearsal floor.
That’s not how Lecavalier works, anyways. She prefers not to have anything charted, and to let herself go on a journey of discovery, usually accompanied by an inspiring soundtrack.
In the case of So Blue, that soundtrack came from Mercan Dede, a Montreal-based Turkish musician whose Middle Eastern-tinged sound wasn’t quite what Lecavalier thought she was looking for – until she discovered she was.
“I thought, OK, I’m just improvising,” Lecavalier says, “but I could never use that (Dede’s music) because that sound is too much.
“But the more I worked with it,” she says, “the more I changed the way I moved, until I think it became fluid and I realized it was something I had been looking for for a long time.
“And with this fluidity,” she adds, “came the idea of the colour blue” – the colour,she says, of the soul – “and with a month in the studio, I shifted places (in my thinking).”
“I’d rehearse every day to his music,” she says, “without choosing right away, until gradually some music was really like the bridge between what I’d started with – something that was very rhythmical and accidental in a way – and something that was more oriental.
“And this colour blue became more and more clear to me,” she adds. “I was in between two places, and the blue was kind of the link.”
After two decades of dancing work choreographed primarily by Edouard Lock, in shows such as Human Sex, New Demons, Infante, c’est destroy and Salt, Lecavalier now dances to the beat of her own choreography.
Does that change how she moves?
“I couldn’t believe I would love it so much,” she says. “It’s totally a job when you start to work because it’s like OK – where am I going now?
(Frederic Tavernini, Louise Lecavalier in So Blue. Photo: Andre Cornellier)
“I’m not the kind of person,” she says, “who takes to an idea and decides, oh, I’m going to do a piece with this. I start with a white page. I start with nothing and I want to trust the movement, and trust that everything I live and think and feel and perceive – it’s full of nourishment every day.”
What eventually evolved is a piece broken into two: a solo by Lecavalier, followed in the second half, by a duet with Tavernini, all of it set to the music of Dede.
“I am filled with hope (in rehearsal),” she adds, “that something (creative) will happen, that I am changed by day to day life – that I will find something (when I need it).
“But,” she adds, “when it starts to happen, it’s really exhilarating!”
And then it’s not.
“One day it’s exhilarating,” she says, “(and) the next day you think, ahhh – that’s not so good.
“But then,” she adds, “I keep working, and working, and working. And then, it becomes real – it appears in front of me: I made it, I can recognize myself in it – and at the same time, I’m surprised.”
Sort of the way she’s been surprising and thrilling and enchanting dance fans around the world for over two decades now.
“When I was improvising it,” she says, “spending hours and hours sweating like crazy, just turn and dance everywhere – when I first saw So Blue on tape, I was surprised. I thought, oh! It looks like that!”