Louise Lecavalier does not so much dance as combust. It can be a slow
burn of small, scampering steps complemented by fluttering arms or
complex hand gestures. Then it suddenly blazes into fast, furious, fre-
netic explosions of energy. The intensity can be almost unbearable.
At age 57, Lecavalier is once again soaring across the dance world
like a comet, almost two decades after quitting the company that made
her famous. Mother to 14-year-old twin girls, loaded with awards and
honors, she is now an independent dancer/choreographer and director
of her own production company, called Fou Glorieux. So Blue, her first
major choreographic endeavour, is now in its fourth year of international touring. Meanwhile, her latest creation, Battleground, is already
booked well into next year.
Lecavalier began her dance training in high school, then apprenticed
with Le Groupe Nouvelle Aire, an experimental Montreal troupe. There
she met Édouard Lock. In 1981, he invited her to join the company he’d
recently founded, what would become La La La Human Steps. So began
a fruitful relationship between Lock as choreographer and Lecavalier as
his muse. Her spectacular double horizontal barrel turns became emblematic of a new wave of contemporary dance, testing the extremes of
speed, precision and hyper-physicality. With her pyrotechnic virtuosity,
she was a proud emblem of female strength and physical daring.
She also became contemporary dance’s closest equivalent to a pop
1998, with Exaucé (billed in English as Salt), Lock put the cast’s women
star. Lecavalier danced with David Bowie, collaborated with Frank
Zappa and appeared in films, such as Kathryn Bigelow’s 1995 sci-fi
thriller, Strange Days. Adoring fans trailed Lecavalier as she walked the
streets on foreign tours. But she didn’t let fame faze her. “I was not so
aware of being the star,” she says. “I didn’t think about that because it
might freak me out. I like to have fun dancing.”
Yet in the early 1990s, Lock began shifting his troupe’s artistic
identity to a more controlled, structured, even balletic, aesthetic. In
on pointe—all except Lecavalier. Her brief thunderbolt appearances
looked more like obligatory star turns than integral parts of Lock’s
overall choreographic design.
The next year, Lecavalier, then 40, decided to leave. As she explains,
it wasn’t just because of a chronic hip injury. (She had been managing
that for several years.) She no longer felt there was a place for her there.
“Édouard’s style was changing,” says Lecavalier. “La La La was becom-
ing more of a ballet company.”
She had no specific plans other than to take a much-needed break.
But Canadian choreographer Tedd Robinson, a longtime fan, lured her
back to the stage. “When I think of Louise’s days with Lock, it’s her
eyes I most remember,” says Robinson. “The way she would look out
at the audience. There was a ferocity and mischievousness, a spark of
defiance, independence and excited energy. She always projected this
strong feminine persona.”
At 57, Louise Lecavalier has reinvented herself—
without losing the daredevil energy audiences love her for.