Arts

La La La Human Steps founder Édouard Lock is alive and well and living in Paris

Seven months after he abruptly shut down one of Canada's most-acclaimed contemporary dance troupes, La La La Human Steps, founder/choreographer Édouard Lock is alive and well and living in Paris.

The celebrated choreographer doesn't know when or whether he'll return to Canada

Édouard Lock instructs members of São Paulo Companhia de Dança during rehearsals for a production of his work The Seasons. (São Paulo Companhia de Dança)

Seven months after he abruptly shut down one of Canada's most acclaimed contemporary dance troupes, La La La Human Steps, founder/choreographer Édouard Lock is alive and well and living in Paris. A fluently bilingual Montrealer, Lock feels at ease in the French capital, where earlier this year he finished a work for the Paris Opera Ballet. He'll use Paris as a convenient, temporary base from which to negotiate with European dance companies and promoters.

Édouard always asked the dancers, 'Faster, faster, faster!'- Inês Bogéa, artistic director, São Paulo Companhia de Dança

For a man who led his own company for 35 years, the transition to independent choreographer has brought an unaccustomed state of mind.

"I'm still trying to put words to define it," Lock confessed recently. "I'm still thinking it through."


A month ago, he traveled to Lyon to see Brazil's São Paulo Companhia de Dança perform The Seasons, a 50-minute work that he created for that company in 2014. In April, the Brazilians are making their first tour of Canada, performing The Seasons this week at Ottawa's National Arts Centre and at Montreal's Place des Arts. Their appearances here offer a degree of consolation to Canadian dance fans who feared they would never again see Lock's unique choreography.

Lucas Axel (left), Pamela Valim and Yoshi Suzuki perform in São Paulo Companhia de Dança's production of The Seasons, by Montreal's Édouard Lock. (Édouard Lock/São Paulo Companhia de Dança)

La La La's dancers were renowned for their lightning-fast arms and legs, and the women on point turned like tornadoes. Mastering the required technique took months of training that was honed in performance during long worldwide tours.

The Brazilian dancers had only seven weeks to get everything right.

"We worked really hard and enthusiastically. When I work with companies, we're always laughing — it's never a heavy or dark studio," said Lock, a man with a dry wit and sly smile.

(São Paulo Companhia de Dança)

Lock's choreography, however, is characteristically dark and serious, though he thinks that some people might at times see a "winky humour" in The Seasons.

"The dancers need to make contrasting movements, sometimes vigorous, sometimes slow, sometimes fast. And Edouard always asked them, 'Faster, faster, faster!'" said the artistic director of São Paulo Companhia de Dança, Inês Bogéa.

A former long-time dancer with Brazil's famous Grupo Corpo, Bogéa has been artistic director since the São Paulo company was formed in 2008. Since then, she has added a repertory by highly regarded contemporary choreographers like William Forsythe and Jiří Kylián. For a time, the repertory also included the solo Prelude of an Afternoon of a Faun, by another Montrealer, Marie Chouinard,

Vinicius Vieira and Morgana Cappellari in São Paulo Companhia de Dança's The Seasons. (Édouard Lock/São Paulo Companhia de Dança)

Lock had not seen The Seasons since its creation. As a kind of tune up before the Lyon performances, he gave corrections and advice in two studio sessions.

"The dancers looked good," said Lock, who's not generally given to extravagant praise.

Lock spoke in April not long after the Paris Opera finished its run of an unusual Tchaikovsky double bill that included his last opera, Iolanta, and the Nutcracker ballet. The two works had their 1892 premiere in St. Petersburg, Russia, on the same program. For the dual program's first revival in over a century, the Paris production engaged three leading choreographers — Lock, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and Arthur Pita. Director Dmitri Tcherniakov gave specific assignments to each.

"It wasn't three choreographers coming with their own aesthetic," said Lock. "It was three choreographers working in somebody else's [Tcherniakov's] aesthetic. That created a neutral terrain that was kind of interesting."

Among Lock's assignments for Tcherniakov was a divertissement that featured colourful puppets more than three metres high.



For now, one of Canada's most distinguished choreographers — Lock belongs to the Order of Canada — remains a resident of Europe. He's not sure when he'll return to Montreal.

"Most of the projects I'm discussing are around Europe. We'll see how things turn out."

São Paulo Companhia de Dança performs The Seasons, Mamihlapinatapai, Gnawa Tue., April 26 at the National Arts Centre, NAC Southam Hall, 53 Elgin St., Ottawa, and Thu. April 28 to Sat. April 30 at Place Des Arts, Theatre Maisonneuve, 175 Sainte Catherine St, Ouest, Montreal.

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