Dancers: Michael Dolan, Liza Kovacs, Sarah Lawrey, Louise Lecavalier, Francine Liboiron, Favien Prioville, Rick Gavin Tjia, Donald Weikert.
Musicians: Denis Bonenfant, Jerome Charles.
Explosive rage melting into tenderness, and raw violence defanged into gentleness; these have always been trademarks of Montreal choreographer’s Edouard Lock’s dance company, La La La Human Steps, and rarely have these disparate elements meshed so effortlessly or so eloquently as they do in his latest full-length work, “2.”
Earlier pieces (“Human Sex,””New Demons” and “Infante, C’est Destroy”) solidified Lock’s reputation as a major choreographic force outside his native Quebec. Lock’s style, while recalling the earthiness of Martha Graham, is unique. He often incorporates a traditional vocabulary only to splay it against a canvas of jazz, rock and something akin to boxing. The result is totally engrossing and occasionally disturbing, especially when fast-paced thrusts and lifts come together with an explosion of violent energy.
Is that hand across the face, that fist holding hair an act of hate, a simple balancing grasp, or a message of love aching to be heard in a world where only the overt gesture hits its mark? Whichever, the formula is successful: Lock attracts a large non-dance audience, who respond to his highly visual and theatrical post-punk, hard-edged vision of the world. On any given night, there are as many black leather jackets and nose rings to be seen as Armani suits and silk ties.
In “2,” the men dance in black suits, the women in black tights and see-through net tops. The entire show is black-and-white, with occasional gold filters softening the harshness. With the exception of prima ballerina Louise Lecavalier, with her shock of platinum hair, the eight dancers are often genderless spirals of ceaseless motion, their sexual identities meaningless.
They are life forms, energyforces, whose matings and connections create pleasure or pain, and often just continue the chain of life. Men and women dance together in seemingly random combinations. And while the overt libido and sense of chaotic urgency that permeates the earlier work is still very much a part of “2,” there is also a new maturity, the settling-in of a style that has spawned schools and copycat companies across Europe. There are still the exciting leaps and collisions between torsos as muscled as body builders, and pas de deux that resemble wrestling matches more than dance, but there are also exquisitely rounded and slow-motion tableaux that frame Lock’s sharp angles.
One such section features Lecavalier, whose astounding athleticism is at the heart of Lock’s aggressive style — he creates much of his work for her particular strengths. Known for her ability to vault over her partners, in “2” she explores a gentler side, using her unbelievable physical control to cleave to her partner like a sensuous snake, hanging from him upside down and seemingly inside out.
Behind the couple, lit only in a harsh, white light, are French composer Jerome Charles and Montreal musician Denis Bonenfant, performing live on two harpsichords throughout the show. Bonenfant and Charles play rock baroque, which is sliced and layered with contemporary music by composers Steve Albini, Gavin Bryars, Iggy Pop and Kevin Shields. While the music distorts, the bodies onstage contort, the violent couplings and occasional triplings complementing the soundscape perfectly.
“2” is about aging, or more specifically, about youth thrown up against old age. Lock thrusts these elements into conflict with each other not only physically, via his dancers, but with multimedia images. The frenetic race against time that occupies much of the piece is stopped dead by two screens that are lowered to feature dual images of Lecavalier, as a young and an old woman. The black-and-white slow-motion footage is trapped on celluloid, with each woman isolated in her own world, until the young Lecavalier makes contact by reaching out of the frame to her counterpart.
The effect of these still and quiet moments is haunting, surpassed only by the final moments onstage, when a lace-patterned grille descends upon a gyrating Lecavalier, trapping her in its cage, finally stopping her. The lights are cut, the music sliced mid-note, and “2” is over.