The queen of Canadian modern dance, Louise Lecavalier made her name in the ‘80s and ‘90s flying through the air in Edouard Lock’s insanely acrobatic choreographies for La La La Human Steps. Over the course of her long career Lecavalier has received numerous awards at home and abroad, including the Order of Canada and the prestigious Bessie Award. Now a youthful 56, and no longer sporting a mane of blonde dreadlocks, Lecavalier is performing her own choreography in her hometown this weekend. I had the great pleasure of speaking with her about dancing, creativity, and pushing the limits of the body at all ages.
Nancy Berman (NB): Tell me about your upcoming piece at Théâtre Outremont.
Louise Lecavalier (LL): It’s called “So Blue,” and it’s officially my first piece of choreography. I’ve been touring with it for two years now, but it doesn’t feel that long. The first 30 minutes are solo, then Frédéric Tavernini joins me onstage. In terms of style it resembles the La la la style of Edouard Lock — energetic with many jumps and so on, but the style has evolved since I left the company and I’ve been working with other choreographers. It’s very energetic and fast, and there’s something of trance there as well.
NB: How did you work with the composer?
LL: The music is by the Turkish-Montreal composer Mercan Dede. I met him a few times while touring and really liked his sound, so I contacted him. He gave me a lot of things — CDs, tracks etc. — to listen to and work with, and I finally chose music from Fusion Monster. Mercan told me to do whatever I want with the music —to change it, to add or subtract instruments, whatever. I adapted it to what I wanted to do. It evolved very naturally—my process seems chaotic but the result is very precise.
NB: Where do your ideas come from?
LL: Everything, of course, but mostly from dancing. I spend every day in studio, improvising. They also come from what I live, from books I read, people, emotions, perceptions, thoughts. I never like to point to one thing and say it will stick. Dance is like music—free of linear interpretation. For sure I have my stories and things that lead me, but they’re not essential. People receive the show and make their own story.
NB: As someone who is very invested in physicality, how do you deal with the challenges presented by getting older?
LL: It’s less a thing of thinking about it than being in your body. The memory of the past can trick you — you can idealize the past. I have just enough memory to remember that I didn’t think of myself as perfect even at 20. Yes, things change. Some things become better, some worse. My interests change. I don’t want to do the same things I did at 20. The urge to dance is just as powerful, but I use different means. My instrument is changing. It’s great — it makes me have to think and reflect about it — this is life — I’m not just a perfect object. I’m a human whose body gets older — it changes — this is what I have to work with. At 20 I also had limitations to deal with that I had to explore and move beyond. There’s never a clear line. I was always playing with the limits. The rules change slightly, even from 20 years old to 20 plus a day. Some days I don’t sleep enough, or I party too much. There has to be a complete adjustment all the time — that’s both the difficulty and the beauty of it. In “So Blue” there aren’t too many jumps. But if I wanted to look at jumps again, to create something new in studio, I’d find a way to make it work for me now — maybe more vertical jumps rather than horizontal.
Everything feels interesting when it’s new, but then it stabilizes. That’s why creation is beautiful—it doesn’t allow you to sit still for too long. But it’s tricky. You have to know when to say it’s enough for today, or for this week, otherwise you miss things. You have to not want so much, to abandon that desire. There’s a very fragile line between abandonment and desire and willpower, and there’s no perfect solution. In the studio you create a tentative solution to all your questions. After a while you need another answer so you have to make another show.
Louise Lecavalier performs So Blue at Théâtre Outremont (1248 Bernard Ave West). 13 and 14 February at 8:00pm. Tickets are $43, $35 for seniors, $28 for students.