When the world lost 37-year-old musician Lhasa De Sela to cancer on January 1, 2010, artists in Montréal were particularly struck with grief. The American-Mexican De Sela, better known simply as Lhasa, travelled extensively with her nomadic parents as a child, and had settled in Quebec with her sister, an artist with Cirque du Soleil, in 1991.
Mixing musical influences from Latin to gypsy to klezmer and Arabic, it was in Montréal where Lhasa recorded and released the three albums that would mark her as one of Canada’s most treasured world-music artists of the early 21st century.
“What was really special about her was that the text she wrote,” says Pierre-Paul Savoie, founder and artistic director of PPS Danse. “Even though she was really young, her text shows the quality—the deepness—of someone with an old soul. And I think that’s why it’s touched the world.”
One year after her death, Savoie rallied a group of choreographers, dancers, musicians and singers that would help him create a tribute to Lhasa’s legacy. Re-mounting 19 of her songs and fusing live music, vocals and dance, Danse Lhasa Danse offers a sense of the woman behind the music in a unique presentation that emulates the diversity in her own approach to creating art.
“The dance gives a universal language to her words, which sometimes are in English, sometimes in Spanish and sometimes are in French … The show is trilingual, but because of the dance I think it creates a fourth language, the universal one,” he says.
The show features a panorama of dance styles from seven different choreographers, with a dance accompaniment for each live-performed song. Of the 19 songs in the program, Savoie lent his choreographic hand to two, the rest seeing oversight from flamenco artist Myriam Allard, the fantastic neoclassical work of Hélène Blackburn, aspects of social dance by David Rancourt, Bharatanatyam influence from Roger Sinha, and ezDanza’s Edgar Zendejas.
“It’s an encounter between the music world and the dance world,” Savoie says. “That’s one of the strong points of the performance, you see the connections between the three; the singer is influenced by the dance, the dance is influenced by the singer and musicians, too. They are blending, it’s not just one beside another.”
Debuting in 2012, Danse Lhasa Danse has received intense response from audiences, francophone and anglophone alike.
“The show goes deeply into the spectator, many people have said to me it was the best show of their life. The deepness that Lhasa has, it’s in the show. You go out of there with a better understanding of what is living, the show has this power,” Savoie describes.
“We say that Lhasa’s angel is with the show—many people who see the show don’t know her at first, but they want to know after. They discover something quite special.”
Thu, Jan 16 (7:30 pm)
Arden Theatre, $25 – $38