La La La Human Steps
by Cecly Placenti
February 4, 2005 -- Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn
If it is at all possible to set a stage on fire with lightning-fast pointe work and unbelievably quick partnering sequences, Montreal-based La La La Human Steps would be the company to do it. On February 4, Edouard Lock brought his provocative “Amelia,” with its multi-media projections, 3D animation, and 600 lighting changes, to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the result was an unabandoned whooping ovation. Set against shifting lattice-work panels or simply an empty stage, this abstract work for pointe is a powerful and totally unique mix of intertwining solos, intricate duets that seem to defy the laws of physics, breathtaking speed, and complexity of movement. In the hometown of Balanchine and his quick-footed ballerinas, I never imagined women could move with such velocity and power on such a small surface of satin.
Choreographer Edouard Lock believes that dance, like language, has its power not in the meaning of the words or steps, but rather in their syntax or structure. In “Amelia” he uses repetition, modification, and the partial isolation of moments through lighting to create the world in flux as he wants us to see it. This piece, while having to do with memories of a transvestite he once knew, deals more with the actual act of remembering. "When the body is in flux it has a relatively abstract and incomplete shape. Memories tend to be like that as well for me," said Lock. The choreography, while often repeating certain gestures and using hundreds of intricate upper body movements, was constantly unfolding. The dancers seemed to move at speeds of quick to quickest for the entire 90 minute ballet. As a result, the audience was forced to imagine the overall shape of the movements or phrases.
Without time to process every little thing that was unfolding before your eyes, you were left with an impression, a memory of what you just saw. It reminded me very much of those flip-books I'd had as a child. If you thumbed through the pages too slowly you didn't understand the story, it didn't flow, but if you flipped through it too fast you missed the progression. But at just the right speed your brain was only slightly behind the moving images and you were left with the impressions of the story while still visually seeing every detail.
Another component of memory that intrigues Lock is how it simultaneously hides and reveals. The highly detailed choreography and the slight impurity resulting from high speed, as well as the use of fluctuating light sources to reveal things only partially, highlighted that facet of memory. Juxtaposing that with the revelation of body shape and line inherent in pointe work was a highly original and interesting idea. Respectful of classical tradition, Lock's choreography takes ballet and pointe technique to its outer limits and produces something completely new.
There is quite a lot of pas de deux work in “Amelia” that relied on weight and timing. Traditional partnering emphasizes strength, while Lock's duets exist through timing and cooperation. With partnering at such high velocity, the tempo is achieved through a mutual dependency between both dancers executing very small shifts of weight. At any given point in the duets, if the man had let go of the woman, she would have gone spinning to the floor.
To say these dancers were beautifully proficient is an understatement. They moved with the surreal precision of an animated cyber-doll. In contrast to their precision were pieces of film created by recording information from parts of the dancers bodies and storing them as data. Then the image of the dancer was recorded separately. The two—data and—image were then brought together onto film and used almost like a partner.
Performing onstage with the dancers were three musicians and a vocalist singing the lyrics by Lou Reed set to a score by David Lang. The music and singing seemed to coexist with the dancers, but neither inspired nor cued them. The use of music and song in no way detracted from the dance, although the dance was not dependant on the time sequences of the music. The razor-sharp lighting employed throughout the piece could be seen as almost interfering with the dance, but in my opinion it enhanced and highlighted it. The audience was left with the job of putting all the elements together. As in nature, nothing necessarily cooperates with anything else, but overall it works. That is the same with the theatrical elements of “Amelia.”
Watching a dance in which the dancers seem to be on the edge of their control, the choreographer seems to be stretching his own creative limits, and the elements of lighting and sound seem to challenge another perspective, all inviting the possibility of failure, La La La Human Steps invites us to enter a new and exciting reality.
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