Notes and Editorial Reviews
Amelia - a film by Édouard Lock
LaLaLa Human Steps: Andrea Boardman, Nancy Crowley, Mistaya Hemingway, Keir Knight, Chun Hong Li, Bernard Martin, Jason Shipley-Holmes, Billy Smith, Naomi Stikeman, Zofia Tujaka
Musical composition: David Lang
Musicians: Alexandre Castonguay cello, Simon Claude violin, Njo Kong Kie piano & musical direction, Nadine Medawar vocalist
R E V I E W S:
This two-DVD set was issued to commemorate 25 years of Éduoard Lock’s Canadian dance company La La La Human Steps. Its primary feature is a complete performance of Lock’s award-winning ballet Amelia, with music by David Lang and, in the occasional vocal sections, words by Lou Reed. This 2002
work was created specifically with the camera in mind, so the film is much more than a record of a stage performance. The dancing takes place in a sparse studio room, the floor and walls are constructed from pale wood, and costuming is simple, plain and functional. Because Lock is choreographer and filmmaker combined, the editing is geared entirely towards showing us what the dancers can do—rather than cutting in and out like a rock clip to produce a generalized sense of activity. Lock’s camera is a virtual dancer as well: zooming in from above, bringing us facial close-ups, circling other dancers, and drawing the viewer right into the middle of the action—at times, distancing us from the action as well.
So what is the action, and who is Amelia? As to the latter, I have no idea. To answer the first question, I must apologize to experts in the field (which I am not) before parading my own opinion. In his spoken commentary, Lock says the piece is simply “about” pure dance; indeed, it is a showcase for his distinctly individual choreographic style. Most of these extraordinary dancers move in a rapid, mechanistic way, a highly controlled frenzy, if you like. Their quick, detailed, repetitive movements suggest a compulsive ritual that is almost schizophrenic. At the top of each of the several duo sections, the two dancers (usually a male/female combo) go through this ritual before engaging with each other in a more integrated pas de deux. To that extent, the work, like much contemporary dance, is partly about how individuals relate to each other in the modern world and specifically how we tend to execute quite elaborate moves before allowing ourselves to get closer to one another (notably—but not exclusively—when there is some sexual basis to the relationship). Lock’s commentary does not expand on any of this; he is mainly concerned with how certain moments were achieved technically. To that end, the DVD includes an interactive feature whereby you can switch at certain points to see the rehearsal and filming process at work.
The dancers are all marvelous, highly trained artists in superhuman rapport with each other and completely in sync with Lock’s idiom. In one duo section, Lock turns convention on its head by pairing a statuesque, muscular woman with a petite, fluid male dancer. The word is no longer in common use—it was once a term with derogatory overtones for any piece of non-traditional art—but in the true sense of its purity, Amelia could best be summed up as “abstract.”
Lang’s musical score mirrors the angularity of the movement in a highly accented, rhythmically propulsive language. It is tightly played by the quartet under the direction of pianist Njo Kong Kie, a further instance of the close collaborative effort which makes this work the success it is. In some sections, the live musicians add their colors to a prerecorded rhythm track.
Opus Arte’s DVD set is a quality product and a fine tribute to the dance company’s 25 years of existence—a rare achievement in a world where finance is never a given and a reluctance to reinvent yourself is always a trap. I’ll be keeping this set and I would recommend it to anyone, whether a fan of contemporary ballet or not, as an example of what may be achieved when skill and imagination combine.
-- FANFARE: Phillip Scott
Works on This Recording
Amelia by David Lang
Period: 20th Century
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