Danse Lhasa Danse honours a great talent
Article: Laura Billett – Contributor
On the night of Jan. 22, the University Theatre was intoxicated with the music and movement of Danse Lhasa Danse, a performance organized by the Quebec dance company PPS’s director Pierre-Paul Savoie in memory of musician Lhasa de Sela. The theatre was full, and everyone eagerly stood to applaud, thanking the extremely talented troupe of dancers, singers, and musicians who put on a remarkable performance.
The 90-minute production was so moving, it is difficult to describe without resorting to the cliché of “a haunting, powerful performance,” but it truly was. The lighting and set were seductive; the room was filled with smoke, and the dim lighting was warmed with red tones. Sitting in the audience, it felt as though you were sitting in a smoky, suave jazz bar. Dancers, musicians, and singers interacted on stage to create seductive, intense, and introspective scenes.
The program was a collaborative effort by seven choreographers and has been touring across Canada, beginning at the Luminato Festival in Toronto last summer. The performance has definitely made an impact, moving many to tears, and making an impression I know I will not forget.
If you are anything like I was a couple months ago, you may be wondering who this woman is who has made such a lasting impression on the world of art, and why so many artists were moved to honour her memory. If so, I urge you, YouTube her immediately.
Lhasa de Sela was a unique singer-songwriter, creating music in English, French, and Spanish. With a range of influences, her songs are classified as anything from upbeat Latin, to melodic and brooding.
She was born in America to hippie parents, and grew up travelling across the United States and Mexico in a converted school bus. Her unconventional upbringing and education greatly influenced her life and her music. She was taught through books, music, philosophy and discussion. Lhasa was an eager student, and developed a very philosophical approach to her life and music.
In her music, she was remarkably and unusually candid, working solely on what she wanted and felt was important. She maintained that artists must create for a reason, must have confidence in what they are doing, and must never wear a mask or create simply to please.
Lhasa was never sensationalized in the media, but those who knew her were enraptured with her talent. She had a hypnotizing voice with powerful depth. When watching videos of her, and upon hearing comments from those who have been fortunate enough to see her perform, it is obvious how unique and talented she was. Her performances radiate with truth and emotion. As Pierre-Paul Savoie said of her influence upon him, she makes you feel her honesty and integrity; while listening to her, you feel the need to create.
Lhasa passed away Jan 1, 2010 of breast cancer at the young age of thirty-seven. Despite her premature passing, Lhasa had, and continues to have a great spiritual and creative impact.