La La La Human Steps: AMJAD

Dates 14, 15 & 16 June 2007, 8pm Venue The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts Reviewer John Jane

Performers Xuan Cheng, Andrea Boardman, Zofia Tujaka, Talia Evtushenko, Mistaya Hemingway, Bernard Martin, Keir Knight, Jason Shipley-Holmes and Dominic Santia

Renowned international choreographer, Édouard Lock brought his frequently rewarded dance troupe to the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts this week to present his latest work, Amjad.

In Amjad Lock utilizes repetition, adaptation, and isolation of movements through John Munro's over-employed lighting scheme that creates a visual flux, forcing the audience to interpret the overall shape of his dance vocabulary.

The core form of this new work is a deconstruction and reconstruction of Tchaikovsky’s classic post-Romantic ballets, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. The two excerpts are not staged as distinct performances separated by an intermission – that would be too simple. They are seamlessly interwoven and fused with Lock’s own highly detailed, non-linear choreography.

It’s perhaps ironic that the company is named “Human Steps.” At first glance, the dancers’ precise and controlled movements seem robotic. In the pas de deux work, the pairs are physically coupled, but their connection appears purely mechanical.

Lock’s choreography demands repetition of certain gestures and uses a multitude of abstruse upper body movements. The dancers seem to move at speeds that vary from double-time to rapid for nearly the entire 100 minute performance. Among the choreographer’s trademark dance syntax is the stunning reversing pirouette, where a ballerina is spun by her male partner in one direction, stopped just long enough for it to register, then spun in the opposite direction.

Most of Amjad consists of male-female duets. Zofia Tujaka, the tallest ballerina seems to tower over her male partners when en pointe, and at one instance she actually lifts her partner off the floor.

Tchaikovsky’s original score is barely recognisable after undergoing David Lang’s rework and Njo Kong Kie’s edgy interpretation. The four musicians, which include Njo Kong Kie on piano, Élisabeth Giroux on cello and Jill Van Gee and Jennifer Thiessen on violas are always visible, with Thiessen and Van Gee performing onstage with the dancers in some later sequences.

Elegant lily white costumes normally associated with Swan Lake are forsaken in favour of chic black leotards and bustiers, while male dancers wear tailored dark suits. The otherwise stark set design is partially enhanced by visual artist Armand Vaillancourt’s projected spherical images onto circular screens.

Édouard Lock’s choreography is certainly aesthetic. Once again he has stretched the limits of his own creativity. In Amjad, La La La Human Steps intrigues with a new realm of electrifying dance.

© 2007 John Jane