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DANCE REVIEW : La La La Human Steps Brings Extravaganza to Wiltern

March 26, 1994|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE WRITER

A sign in the Wiltern Theatre lobby on Thursday advised patrons coming to see La La La Human Steps that tickets dated Oct. 28 and Jan. 14 would be accepted for that evening's performance--a reminder of the two postponements of the engagement caused by an injury to leading dancer Louise Lecavalier.

As it happened, Lecavalier's vulnerability proved central to "Infante--C'est Destroy," the Montreal-based company's complex, engulfing 75-minute extravaganza, which combined iconoclastic films and choreography by company director Edouard Lock with assaultive rock music (mostly live) and an alternately stark and sensuous production design.

From the fakeout opening of the piece (a kind of live dance-clip of duets to come) through one of several fakeout endings, the tiny, blond Lecavalier embodied an extreme of ultra-liberated contemporary womanhood. Calling all the shots, dominating every partner (including other women), she initiated the moves that became the language of the piece.

Familiar from the company's performances at the 1987 L.A. Festival and its TV appearances, those moves included emblematic cannonball jumps into a partner's arms--with horizontal air turns along the way--that translated as desperate lunges for intimacy. Minutes later, however, after both partners dodged and jumped over one another in passages of dazzling speed and intricacy, Lecavalier would abruptly walk away--usually into a new duet.

As sexual politics, "Infante--C'est Destroy" made intriguing statements about empowerment, with even the characteristically submissive males gaining a new sense of freedom through Lecavalier's example--notably in the spectacular trio where they adopted her vocabulary while successfully resisting the women's attempts to breach their solidarity.

However, Lock literally superimposed another vision on the dancing--one that deliberately undercut the image of Lecavalier as postmodern wonder woman:

At the front of the stage, columns of roses framed a semi-transparent projection screen on which the audience periodically viewed slo-mo film fantasies showing Lecavalier as a classic, doomed warrior a la Joan of Arc. The title of the work--and those roses--also linked Lecavalier to Velazquez's paintings of the tiny, blond Infanta Margarita three centuries ago.

Images of a bleeding, dying Lecavalier alternated onscreen with displays of her dancing prowess, just as one false ending of the piece onstage showed her exhausted and unable to continue--yet suddenly capable of lifting her man over her head and literally tossing him away. Through these extremes, Lock developed a high-Romantic portrait of Lecavalier that both unified the work and helped explain its lapses.

For instance, Lock used his men (Rick Gavin Tjia, Donald Weikert and Marito Olsson-Forsberg) as anonymous, interchangeable partners for Lecavalier while his women (Sarah Lawrey and Sarah Williams) became only slightly more individualized surrogates. The dancing was scarcely ever about them, only her .

This obsessive pattern, projected at titanic scale through the endless close-ups of her billowing hair and repeated panoramic scans of her naked body, could sometimes grow tedious. But, more often, the Lock/Lecavalier partnership proved exciting and inspiring: one of the few dance phenomenons of the moment, if not quite the timeless mystery the work aimed for.

If the overlapping grills and screens designed by Dussault/Lefebvre spatially extended Lock's emphasis on layers of myth and reality, the awesome immediacy of the dancing wouldn't have been possible without guitarist Sylvain Provost and, especially, drummer Jackie Gallant. The credited composers were Einsturzende Neubauten, David Van Tieghem, Skinny Puppy and Janitors Animated; the uncredited included Leonard Bernstein and Procol Harum.

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