With a voice to shake you to your very core, Lisa Fischer takes to the stage with a dozen dancers in Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet’s Canadian premiere of The Propelled Heart.
One of the most powerful singers of our time, Fischer spent much of her career singing backup vocals with pop greats like the Rolling Stones, Sting, and Tina Turner. Since the 2013 documentary film Twenty Feet From Stardom catapulted her to her own stardom, she has taken part in a variety of collaborations, including touring with JC Maillard and his group Grand Baton, and working with Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet on The Propelled Heart.
Much of the first part of the show features Fischer wordlessly vocalizing. Her voice is like spun gold, so rich in texture and colour. Her range is extraordinary, effortlessly reaching for the stars as well as the depth. From the bell-like purity of a flute to the rich tenor of a cello, her voice is an entire universe of sound unto itself.
She is accompanied at times by Maillard, live on stage; at other times there is an electronic soundtrack that either accompanies her or alternates with her. At one point she sings a duet with a recorded version of herself. Whether she is vocalizing or singing her Grammy-winning song How Can I Ease the Pain, every note is heartfelt and profound, connecting with the dancers and each member of the audience.
The dance itself is also beautiful, although at times the connection between the dancers and Fischers’ singing was a little unclear. On a solidly classical foundation the dancers integrate modern movement and yoga-like flexibility into the solo, duo and group scenes. The dancers and Fischer share both touch and sound: Fischer at times interacts physically with the dancers, and at times the dancers vocalize, often in response to Fischer’s calls. A solo dance scene towards the end of the work was particularly moving and manifested a very strong bond between Fischer and the dancer. Overall I found the second half to be stronger than the first, with more contrasts between the lyrical and rhythmic, and a more concrete narrative aspect. The levels of virtuosity, sensitivity, expressivity and communication attained by musicians and dancers alike can only lead one to hope that this is just the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership.
Lisa Fischer and Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet perform The Propelled Heart at Théâtre
Maisonneuve 30 April, 1, 2, 3, and 4 May 2019. Tickets here.