Louise Lecavalier's Battleground-- Fou Glorieux at the Fleck

Battleground (Mille Batailles)

Choreographed by Louise Lecavalier

Performed by Louise Lecavalier & Robert Abubo (dance) and Antoine Berthiaume (live music)

Fou Glorieux in the Torque Contemporary Dance Series

Fleck Dance Theatre, Toronto

October 5-6, 2018


Reviewed by Beverley Daurio


Louise Lecavalier is a force of nature. When she enters the stage she changes it; the energy of the space gathers force in her and radiates out as fascinating and elegant movement, that is at the same time deeply expressive and nearly impossible in its precision and focus.

Mille Batailles, French for a thousand battles or fights, is the original title of this Fou Glorieux production that was first mounted in 2016. At once avant-garde and accessible—the driving beat of Antoine Berhiaume’s score, performed live on stage to the left of the set, keeps the audience members’ hearts racing and bodies rivetted as the spectacle unfolds. Berthiaume plays guitar filtered and extended by various digital manipulations, including loops, sampling and synthesizer, so that he produces a deep range of sound and rhythm, from bell-like tones to percussive brushings, from moody funk to streaming hard rock.

The set is dominating and spare at the same time—a giant abstraction of a wall at the back is built of 4 x 8 foot sheets of plywood that form a two-storey backdrop; these shapes are echoed in the grey flooring that is broken by lighting into 4 x 8 foot shapes. Their rectangularity forms a constant field of straight-lined frames, hard and clear, against which Lecavalier’s body, in almost constant motion, forms human vulnerable shapes. The lighting continues and extends this shape respectfully—outlines, lines and rectangles, in white, grey and mild red appear and disappear as the sections and moods change.

Dressed in a technical zipped black hoodie and metallic carbon coloured soft wide bottom pants, Lecavalier begins by occupying the stage with action—shaking her hands in perfect isolation, quick head to profile and back, arms out in sudden perfectly straight lines, in triangles, while engaging in swift footwork delicate as embroidery, almost floating across the stage floor in lines and diagonals: fast, magical, exhilarating. The forms sometimes resemble animals, or birds; Lecavalier takes the shape of life.

A few stops are built into the piece; Lecavalier sits on a chair beside Berthiaume and drinks water, studying the stage.

During one such pause, Abubo is conjured onto the right side of the set. Bulkier, also dressed in a dark hoodie and trousers, he is ballast, balance, male contrast to Lecavalier’s powerful femininity, a become-material alter-ego, a partner, a competitor. He shadows her, lifts, dances the masculine; and they engage in various pas de deux full of flexible motoring, verticality and dream shapes—until the end, when she carries him, and they are, in a way, reunited off to the side of the stage, sitting, looking at us in amazement at what they have wrought, as the lights go down.

Were they two halves of the same person, pulled in different directions? The essence of male and female? Competitors? Partners? Though this is deeply physical dance, it is also philosophical and intellectual—its demands and challenges are beautiful and multiple. What are humans capable of; what extremes of discipline, control, elegance and joyful expression can be extracted from the human body—what is possible? The generous and exquisite choreographer and dancer Louise Lecavalier shows us.