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Flash Review 1, 10-2: An Early Winter's Night
Laurence Lemieux/Coleman & Lemieux: What's Your Story?

By Tom Patrick
Copyright 2001 Tom Patrick

NEW YORK -- Hard to believe that New York's seasons would shift into winter so crisply as September's calendar page flips to October's, but there we were: shivering in the sanctuary of Saint Mark's Church Sunday night as a frigid rain pelted the East Village. Given the recent state of things here in the City, I was doubly hoping for someone to light a (contained) fire by which we might draw light and warmth in these unsteady times. And who better than our cousins from Canada, long the experts in fighting off the elements and wild reminders of Life's harshness?

Laurence Lemieux's "Novembre" was the night's first offering in this installment of Danspace Project's "Global Exchange/Quebec! NY 2001. Right away I was burdened by a troublesome question or two that accompanies a lot (if not all) of my audienceship: "What do you want to show us? What do you want to tell us?" These may be the products of a native skepticism, and do not always let me see things in a virginal way, but I'm not attending as a writer while pretending to be unsullied by points-of-view acquired as a dancer etc. Since there weren't enough press materials to go around -- a mixed blessing, as some tell too much and some too little -- I had to find my answers completely in The Thing itself, the artist's thesis and expansion on it.

"Novembre" emerged quite a bit more subtly than October was doing out in the streets. As subdued lighting (by Pierre Lavoie) came up to reveal Ms. Lemieux onstage, looking vulnerable in her bare feet (the three men sharing the piece were all shod, sturdily-so), she began with simple phrasing that showed a great amplitude and articulation as a dancer. Upstage, Anthony de Mare on the piano (how good music can sound in the Saint Mark's space!) tentatively dipped in and out of something that first resembled Satie as Lemieux continued and a pair of men huddled together and slowly advanced downstage. Once the soloist yielded the stage, these gents took off in their own directions, all but abandoning their conspiratorial tone. The drama which might have been there was a red herring, and now seemed to be two simultaneous monologues, wrestling for my attention. It was a mode which would endure for much of the 50 minutes of this "Novembre." There followed other solos and groupings, but most were curiously devoid of clear rhythmic impulse or interconnection of persons, beyond the mechanics of occasional partnering.

I was always confronted with the talent of these dancers, obviously facile and trained, with nary a misstep. There were sinuous moves, yes, beautiful smooth torque as their backs worked, surely.... But I was periodically bothered by those questions: What do you want to tell us? What do you want to show us? As the pianist constantly stopped and resumed playing ("Souvenir and Pillar of Snails," by Christopher Butterfield) I grew concerned at my feelings that this was an affair of continually-interrupted momentum. I found it hard to detect an arc that held a direction, before the board would be wiped clean and some new state of mind would prevail. Yet each beginning was more like a renewal of the same introductory comments, low-key and somewhat perfunctorily delivered. I sat wishing that someone would let the motive continue and reveal itself. This is certainly more of an editing criticism than a choreographic one. Obviously there was meaning afoot, but seemed much of the time to be lost in its own code.... That I cannot crack that code does not invalidate it. Certainly the execution was professional and quite intentional. But my sensation was of four souls disconnected, without a clue as to how they might have been connected or who they were.

Of course, that begs all kinds of questions...but assuming an implied connection: perhaps I was really seeing a large collection of vignettes, inner lives of people passed on the street as told in their eyes and then extrapolated in the studio. Or maybe these were unresolved issues being forever played out by souls who have left this Earthly realm. But I doubt that. Even a secondhand view of someone's interior experience could not be so free of passion or spikes of feeling. The performers of Coleman & Lemieux carried on with aplomb and an inner steadiness that confounded me. Their disconnection from each other while sharing the stage began to wear on my attention, and I began to wonder how to integrate their monologues into meaning. The dancing personnel changed a lot between the four of them over the almost-hour, and Ms. Lemieux seemed always subsequently to appear as a solo figure. I wondered again at the significance of her bared feet, in contrast to the Florsheims on all the men...is she the Dear Departed? Indeed --perhaps ironically -- her dancing came closest to lighting that fire that I mentioned, the one that shares and that reminds us of our humanity. In a closing interlude, she sought (or succumbed to?) the floor, as white flakes of a November snow escaped from her fingers, swirling magically in the veil of light.

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