Intensely muscular and physical dance hallmarks of Louise Lecavalier at Jacob’s Pillow

Louise Lecavalier & Keir Knight (Photo : Massimo Chiarradia)

It’s intensely physical. Emotionally compelling. And unique. The work of Iconic Canadian contemporary dancer Louise Lecavalier is nothing less than extraordinary, and it will be seen in the Berkshires during a limited engagement at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival July 13-16. It’s a rare, though fleeting opportunity for audiences to see Lecavalier perform in the United States since the company will only give four performances omitting the usual matinee.

Seen above: Louise Lecavalier and Keir Knight (Photo : Massimo Chiarradia)

In the video embedded below is an excerpt from their highly charged Children which I find reminiscent of the classic (and now politically incorrect) Apache dance. According to Wiki, Apache was a highly dramatic dance associated in popular culture with Parisian street culture in the beginning of the 20th century. The name of the dance (pronounced ah-PAHSH, not uh-PATCH-ee, like the English pronunciation of the Native American tribe) is taken from a Parisian street gang, which in turn was named for the American Indian tribe due to the perceived savagery of the hoodlums. The term came to be used more generally to refer to certain vicious elements of the Paris underworld at the beginning of the 20th century.

The dance is sometimes said to reenact a violent “discussion” between a pimp and a prostitute. It includes mock slaps and punches, the man picking up and throwing the woman to the ground, or lifting and carrying her while she struggles or feigns unconsciousness. Thus, the dance shares many features with the theatrical discipline of stage combat. In some examples, the woman may fight back.

The U.S. premiere of Children is a lusty duet choreographed by DV8 Physical Theatre’s Nigel Charnock. Lecavalier performs with Patrick Lamothe, opening a window into a relationship at its breaking point. In A Few Minutes of Lock, also receiving its U.S. premiere, Lecavalier powers through the signature athletic choreography of Édouard Lock to a soundscape of Iggy Pop music.

“Louise is astonishing. She is fearless on stage, making each performance compelling and suspenseful for the audience. It is not only the dare-devil nature of the movement itself, but she is powerful emotionally – passionate, commanding, and gives everything of herself in performance. For me, this program says so much about why dance matters. You don’t need to know anything about dance or choreography to connect with this experience – and everyone should see Louise Lecavalier dance at least once.” Ella Baff, Executive and Artistic Director of Jacob’s Pillow

Considered Édouard Lock’s muse, Louise Lecavalier joined his company La La La Human Steps in 1981 for its production of Oranges and went on to perform in each of the company’s productions until Exaucé/Salt in 1998. Renowned for her fast-paced, emotional work with plenty of musical variety, she has won several prestigious awards including a Bessie for her performance in Businessman in the Process of Becoming an Angel (1983); the Jean A. Chalmers National Award (1999); and was recently named Choreographic Personality of the Year for 2010-2011 at the Syndicat français de la critique (French Critics’ Union) on June 20, 2011. According to Le Monde, she is “often imitated, never equaled. She remains the untamable platinum-blonde rebel, refusing all chains. For her dance is an act of sharing.”

Louise Lecavalier and Patrick Lamothe in Children; photo Massimo Chiarradia©

In Children, a 50-minute duet choreographed by the British “bad boy of physical theatre,” Nigel Charnock, Lecavalier “seems ageless. She unleashes a fireworks display of breathtaking leaps and movements at a speed that is hardly comprehensible.” (Regina Goldlücke, Rheinische Post). The work begins with flashing lights and Lecavalier running on hands and feet. The couple swing, lift, catch, and throw each other around with rhythmic abandon. Charming yet serious, Children displays “a child’s sensitivity – interpreted by an exceptional artist” (Neue Rhein Zeitung).

In the U.S. premiere of Ten Minutes of Lock, Lecavalier revisits three duets from her final years with La La La Human Steps. The work includes excerpts from Édouard Lock’s 2 and Exauce/Salt. In the first duet, the focus is almost entirely on Lecavalier, while the second section features three dancers (Lecavalier, Lamothe, and Keir Knight). Quick, slicing movement is juxtaposed with graceful lifts as Lecavalier jumps and spins into her partners’ arms. Says Victoria Looseleaf of Dance Magazine, “Nobody moves like Louse Lecavalier.”

Performance and Ticket Information

At the Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, July 13 through Saturday, July 16 at 8:15pm
(Note: There will be no matinee performances during this engagement)
Free Pre-Show Talks with Jacob’s Pillow Scholars-in-Residence are offered on the Doris Duke Theatre porch 30 minutes before every performance. Tickets are $23.50-37.50. and now on sale online at, via phone at 413.243.0745 or in person at the Jacob’s Pillow Box Office.
Under 35 Fridays: As part of the Pillow’s younger audiences initiative: $19 Under 35 Fridays tickets (for individuals 35 and younger) are available for the Friday evening performance of Louise Lecavalier. Limit two (2) per person, must show valid I.D. when tickets are picked up. Under 35 ticket holders will also receive a bonus gift from Under 35 Fridays sponsor Blue Q. Pillow Members receive exclusive benefits. To become a Member call 413.243.9919 x125. The Box Office hours are Monday and Tuesday 10am-6pm, Wednesday through Saturday 10am-8pm, and Sunday 12pm-5:30pm.

Jacob’s Pillow is located at 358 George Carter Road in Becket, MA, 01223 (10 minutes east on Route 20 from Mass Pike Exit 2). The Jacob’s Pillow campus and theaters are handicapped-accessible.

Free Events at the Pillow June 29-July 2

Free Inside/Out Performance – Oyu Oro
Marcia & Seymour Simon Performance Space
Wednesday, July 13, 6:15pm
Oyu Oro performs Raices, a multifaceted work featuring traditional dance and live drumming, celebrating the dance heritage of West Africa, Haiti, and Cuba.

This event is part of Lift Ev’ry Voice: Celebrating African-American Culture and Heritage in the Berkshires.

Free PillowTalk Discussion and Book Signing – Eiko & Koma
Thursday, July 14, 5pm
In a new book entitled Time Is Not Even, Space Is Not Empty, the forty-year career of movement theatre artists Eiko and Koma is examined by a host of influential contributors including Suzanne Carbonneau, Sam Miller, and Philip Trager, some of whom will discuss and sign.

Free Inside/Out Performance – Helen Hatch
Marcia & Seymour Simon Performance Space
Thursday, July 14, 6:15pm
Emerging choreographer Helen Hatch and her company of vibrant dancers presents ONE, an exploration of group dynamics, and Fine Print, a lyrical, haunting work of duets and ensemble interactions.

Free Inside/Out Performance – Northern California Dance Conservatory
Marcia & Seymour Simon Performance Space
Friday, July 15, 6:15pm
Hailing from the Sacramento area, these emerging contemporary artists perform Life Out of Balance, depicting the collision between technology and the environment, and The Canyon set to the music of Philip Glass and inspired by the Colorado River.

Free PillowTalk Discussion – Dance in Cuba
Saturday, July 16, 4pm
Cultural exchanges between Becket, Massachusetts and Havana have amazingly deep roots, dating back to a Cuban tour by Ted Shawn’s Men Dancers in the 1930s. This presentation will examine the cultural climate in Cuba today and look back on some key moments in our international relations.

Free Inside/Out Performance – The School at Jacob’s Pillow: Contemporary
Marcia & Seymour Simon Performance Space
Saturday, July 16, 6:15pm
Under the direction of master teacher Milton Myers, contemporary dancers conclude their first week of professional study at the Pillow with Director of The Juilliard School Dance Division Lawrence Rhodes and choreographer KT Niehoff. The dancers present a work in progress created on them by Belgian choreographer Stijn Celis.

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