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Rocky Violence : La La La Humans Step On 'Demons'

September 24, 1987|MARTIN BERNHEIMER | Times Music/Dance Critic

No one is going to confuse La La La Human Steps with the Royal Danish Ballet.

The five-body unisex punk-dance company from Canada that flipped and thumped and rocked and rolled and flew and fell and faked a little ballet around the awful stage of the EmbassyTheater for 75 minutes Tuesday night, doesn't care much about lightness and grace.

It cares about guts and thunder.

And it delivers the guts and thunder with unbridled energy, with deadpan rhetoric, with virtuosic skill, with split-second timing and numbing effect.

Marc Beland was, we think, the tough dude in black. (You can't tell the players here, even with a program.) He did primary combat with Louise Lecavalier. She was the muscular little blonde with the doe eyes, the leather bodice, the cutoff tights and the sensible shoes.

Donald Weikert was the aggressive guy with the light T-shirt. He tended to get paired with Francine Liboiron, who sprang up on command like a delirious coil.

The combinations and permutations of personnel were somewhat arbitrary. Partners could be switched. Twosomes could become threesomes. The women could slam the men just as much and just as well as vice-versa.

The women could lift and carry the men when the spirit moved them. Same-gender coupling and uncoupling also was OK.

The La La La Humans like to step on an updated version, it would seem, of the quaint, let's-pretend-naughty aesthetic of the Apache dance. They offered an oddly innocent perspective of a sadomasochistic sensibility, always within the context of gritty post-mod exploration.

When the central quartet wasn't engaged in wildly competitive tumbling, mutual catching (and delicate dropping), frenzied acrobatics, cannon-ball loop-da-looping and loop-da-leaping, an amiable, hard-to-understand quasi-master of ceremonies took over. This was Edouard Lock, the resident director-choreographer-lyricist-reader.

At the outset he strolled in front of Alain Lortie's leafy backdrop and passed on a few sentences from an ancient treatise on survival in the wilds of California. Later he got embroiled in arcane matters of domestic ornithology.

He also lay on a bed of sharp metal rods and sang a raucous ballad. While his musical colleagues, the West India Company, accompanied agile vocal flights by Priya Khajuria, he delivered visual counterpoint in the form of appropriately exotic hand dancing.

The much applauded entity, first performed in Montreal earlier this month, bore a title: "New Demons." That must mean something. We're sure it means something.

The previous La La La opus was called "Human Sex." That must mean something too.

Significantly, the portions of "Human Sex" shown on local television suggest that the La La Las see little difference between humans and demons.

More problematic, they express what they see with a rather limited vocabulary. The dance episodes that came and went between the apparently unrelated songs on Tuesday became a bit redundant after a while. The tactical devices seemed interchangeable.

The ever-disarming and somewhat frightening Lecavalier may have altered her costume. Add a grass skirt here, a tutu there. Still, the basic maneuvers at the end looked just like the basic maneuvers at the beginning. For at least one impatient, iconoclastic ingrate, familiarity did not breed affection.

At one point Lecavalier and Beland danced a distortion duet via film. That was a lovely, almost lyrical interlude. At another point, the brash ballerina tried to wire her body so that we could hear her heartbeats and, presumably, so she could dance to her own internal drummer. Unfortunately, the infernal electronic contraption malfunctioned.

One just can't trust the new technology.

The Embassy Theater, incidentally, made things difficult for the audience as well as the performers. The air-conditioning system--if there is one--conditioned no air. The amplification system and echo-ridden acoustics reduced the hyper-loud music to an incoherent jumble.

The sight lines upstairs at the sides caused chronic neck-cricking. The sight lines downstairs made the dancers disappear whenever they dropped to the floor, which was often.

The festival management apparently thought all this could be wished away with words. A slip inserted in the program called the house "classic and most (sic) unique." Indulgence was therefore begged for "the occasional eccentricities."

The eccentricities out front, like those on the stage, proved hardly occasional.

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