Montreal-based dance company Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie made its California debut at Campbell Hall on Friday night, delivering high-energy artistry and engaging the audience in ways rarely seen at dance performances. James Kudelka, former artistic director of The National Ballet of Canada, choreographed the three pieces performed by the company, all of which elicited laughter, cheers, and gasps from the responsive audience.
Husband-and-wife team Bill Coleman and Laurence Lemieux danced alongside 11 other dancers in the opening piece, “Fifteen Heterosexual Duets,” which was, quite literally, 15 pas de deux with a man and a woman in each piece. The solid technique and striking interpretation was set to Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata. Kudelka gave each duet a distinct mood, from exuberant to whimsical to violent, but kept the continuity of ideas by overlapping couples in movement at the beginning and end of each duet. The women shone especially in these duets, but were well supported by their male counterparts, who got a chance to prove themselves later.
The second piece, “Soudain, l’hiver dernier,” was a surprising crowd-pleaser, allowing two male dancers, Andrew Giday and Peter Troszt-mer, to partner. Somewhat encumbered by ordinary street shoes that restricted seamless dancing, the two men were never campy in their contact. The duo favored languid expression and supported each other in breathtaking lifts while the chanting music increased in volume and the voices of instruments filtered in. The men’s gestures were not complicated, but were movingly executed with slow, strong embraces and wrestling moves, set to Gavin Bryars’s Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, a repetitive, spiritual-type song with a scratchy male voice.
The company closed with the frenetic, four-movement “In Paradisum” in which all nine dancers wore floor-length dresses and motion never stopped. This allowed the male members of the company to stand out while also highlighting powerhouse Sasha Ivanochko in the role of the angel. Lemieux and Coleman themselves duoed beautifully, accenting quick movement with sharp lines and virtuoso partnering.
The dancers and choreography were fascinating, emotional, and technically masterful. The result was a display of world-class talent and choreography, varied in its intensity, allowing each dancer acrobatic solos and logic-defying partnering.