By Yasmine Shemesh
VANCOUVER — For over 30 years, Montréal choreographer Daniel Léveillé has explored the beauty within the imperfections of humanity. The esteemed artist — who danced for Canadian icons like Louise Lecavalier and Françoise Sullivan before establishing his own company, now called Daniel Léveillé Danse, in 1981 — has worked through difficult themes of eroticism, intimacy, and violence, pushing contemporary boundaries by trying to translate the movement of emotion. When asked what it is about the human condition that fascinates him so, Léveillé pauses for a moment before responding, “I would say, first, its complexity.”
In Léveillé’s latest touring piece, Solitudes Solo, five dancers perform eight solos that question what it means to be alone. For Léveillé, seclusion is pure joy. “I know for some people, especially young people, solitude is something not good,” he says. “But for me, solitude is something that I need. I need many hours of solitude in my own personal life in order to be able to play my role in society. You need to be very careful of that precious solitude; I think things happen from there, not from big brouhaha.”
Performing to Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Violin, the dancers push silently through glaring gazes and clenched fists, holding and extending their positions while slowly succumbing to gravity. The movements, overall, are more lyrical and fluid in contrast to Léveillé’s usual formal choreography that typically incorporates big lifts.
Solitudes also marks a new beginning for Léveillé due to the fact that his dancers are clothed. Bare flesh has often been a part of the choreographer’s aesthetic in a bid to strip away pretense in favour of vulnerability. “It was just the end of it,” he says. “I think this cycle of creation was finished and I didn’t see the purpose of using it again and again. Still, I need to see the body functioning — I really like to see the torso, the legs, the arms, [so the costumes are] really minimal, [the dancers are] wearing underwear — but it’s extremely different from being naked.”
Léveillé largely credits the critical and poignant triumph of Solitudes to his dancers, most of whom have been with the company for at least a decade. He maintains that it is only through prolonged time together (something today that’s quite rare in the fickle dance industry) does a dancer and his or her instructor begin to develop a deep understanding of each other’s movements — and when dancers become one with the choreography, only then can they truly express themselves.
“I think ‘dance’ is just part of what the dancers bring into their interpretation of what I’m asking,” Léveillé explains. “I’m asking, most of the time, to do steps and lifts, and go there and grab his hand, but each and every one of the dancers, what they bring is very different from one to the other — it’s their own being. And I think ‘dance’ is that mysterious part that I somehow cannot control. My choreographic work — I’m a maniac — it’s extremely precise. It has to be done extremely precisely, as it is asked. But by being that precise, it opens a freedom because you know exactly what you have to do. Then, you’re free.”
Solitudes Solo is being performed at Firehall Arts Centre from October 28-31.BC, British Columbia, dance, Firehall Arts Centre, Solitudes Solo