Jan. 11, 2012 - Issue #847: The great indoors
La La La Human Steps
Since founding his seminal dance company, La La La Human Steps, in 1980, the likes of David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Michael Apted have all sought out Lock's creative mind for collaborative projects.
There's no debate that Lock has made his point, so to speak, when it comes to bridging ballet with contemporary movement. Not only did La La La cause a ruckus in the '80s with an oft topless, androgynous female lead and severely fast, aggressive choreography (all at a time when ballet companies and contemporary co-ops were loathe to even watch each other's work), but since then Lock has broadcast his iconoclastic ideals of dance at the forefront of pop culture, even at times in venues that modern dance had scarcely before explored. (He's garnered numerous awards for his black-and-white film, Amélia, which is also being screened on Monday as part of the Canoe Theatre Festival.)
Three decades after its inception, La La La is still blowing minds around the world with its signature paradox of classical pointe work and deconstructed, beaten-down esthetics. The company's visit next week, its first appearance in Edmonton since Amjad in 2007, features a new work—uncheekily titled New Work.
"It's pretty much untitled," explains Lock matter-of-factly, noting that the piece is conceived on the basis of two well-known operas: Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice. Excerpts from the original scores, re-worked for La La La by composer Gavin Bryars, will be performed by a live onstage quartet.
"I don't know, it would have felt strange covering these incredibly iconic operas with a title of my own," Lock adds.
Like Amjad, which took its inspiration from the canonical ballets Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, New Work is also an exploration of memory—not only of an audience's recollection of the music and classic Greek tales, but also of remembering lost love.
"When you look at the specifics of these two operas, they draw to a part of the relationship phase that's an unusual part to address: it's the end, it's the memory. It isn't the seductive phase or the romantic phase. So there is, in my opinion, a sense of loss that permeates through the work."
Sounds sad, but really, Lock knows that each audience member takes something different from what they see onstage, and that is out of his control. In no cheesy terms, that is the magic of live performance, and arguably an indication of how the complex, risky style of La La La's choreography has come to resonate for over 30 years.
"When a group of people come onto the stage, they're acutely aware of being observed. You can almost sense some sort of wind, some sort of erosional force that wears away the inefficient; it wears away the weakest parts of what is being presented," says Lock. "If you step into the reality of the theatre, the audience goes in with problems that they cannot escape. They taste failure, they taste hope—some parts of their lives are in control and others are not. So you can't address this group by saying you're simply going to present a technically coherent performance, it goes beyond that. You've got to be able to take an ego risk and go beyond the edge of your control where potentially failure can happen, as it does in the audience. And that creates the link between the two groups, and that isn't technical."
Wed, Jan 18 (8 pm)
Jubilee Auditorium, $52.90 – $64.40
Mon, Jan 16 (7:30 pm)
Amélia (film screening) and Q&A with Édouard Lock
Zeidler Hall, Citadel Theatre, $10
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