September 2, 2015 was a sad day for Canada’s dance community and a sign of bleak times in a shifting economy.
After thirty-five years at the helm of the world-renowned company La La La Human Steps (LHS), founder and Artistic Director Édouard Lock had no choice but to cease operations due to a lack of financial support.
“It was a complex decision and a very complex situation,” Lock explains over the phone from Montréal. “The cuts were too great to permit the company to make work. It could have survived perhaps, but not with a mandate that I found acceptable. It’s a misuse of public money if what you’re doing is essentially going in a hold-up position and not being able to do something. So it was based on that.”
$2.5 million in cuts were made by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec in July 2015, an act that particularly affected dance, as calculated by the Regroupement québécois de la danse.
Growing from its humble beginnings in the working-class Montréal neighbourhood of St. Henri, LHS performed edgy movement with punk rock bravado that changed the face of contemporary dance and contributed to putting Canada on the map as an important arts community.
Fuelled by the bold aesthetics of Lock’s work and the athletic and androgynous movement of Canadian dance icon and Lock’s muse, Louise Lecavalier, the company exuded a raw power that acutely captured the zeitgeist and caught the eye of leading recording artists David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and Frank Zappa, all of whom became future collaborators.
Gaining international fame with Lock’s work Human Sex (1985), LHS toured extensively and used its connections in other artistic fields to reach out from beyond the dance vortex.
“There is a benefit to touring in terms of opening up the conversation between the company and the world,” Lock states. “I think it’s beneficial for people to take stock of what you’re doing and it’s also beneficial for the company to see what other people are doing. In today’s world that is so fundamental. The sense of a local environment is gone. You’re essentially touring when you go to social media and the sense of an entirely local event is no longer possible to maintain. It’s all part of a global conversation.”
Up next Lock will be taking his choreographic expertise to the Opéra national de Paris in their 2016 production of Iolanta/Casse-Noisette.
From the now-infamous barrel turn to the company’s use of thrilling precision with abstracted pointe shoe movement, La La La Human Steps’ fingerprints dust every surface of Canada’s contemporary dance landscape.
“The arts are a face that people look to,” Lock says. “It’s a voice that defines a country and a culture. It’s everywhere and deep into the entire social fabric. In today’s world a country that doesn’t value art and its artists and does not take pride in its artistic achievement is really playing on a secondary level. It’s just not possible anymore to do that.”
Editor’s note: It was first reported that money originally allocated to LHS would not be re-diverted into the dance stream, but that has since been clarified, see here.