Citadel + Compagnie (C+C) presents the anticipated remount of Laurence Lemieux’s Looking for Elvis and James Kudelka’s The Man in BlackMay 2 – 5 & 9 – 122018 at The Citadel: Ross Centre for Dance. Exploring the life and times of two American music legends – Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash – these acclaimed contemporary works were applauded by critics and audiences during their original 2014 and 2015 sold out presentation. This evening celebrates the unmistakable sound of two top Rock & Roll Hall of fame legends, while channelling their lives into two stripped back, gripping performances.

“In response to overwhelming audience demand, we are thrilled to revisit these works which complement one another perfectly,” says C+C Artistic Director Laurence Lemieux. “We pay homage to Presley and Cash for their legacy and impact on artists across many genres. The music of these pop culture powerhouses are a starting point, but the choreography is not constrained by that. In both works we invite audiences to leave their preconceptions at the door and encounter these artists in an entirely fresh, new way.”

SNAPSHOT REVIEW

Lemieux introduced the evening with a simple explanation of the works, a bit of background on herself and the venue, and thanking the crowd for attending a live performance. She then alluded to the difficulties of operating an independent organization such as her space, and came up with a brilliant idea to help subsidize some of the overhead operating costs. Anyone wishing to support the theatre, and the dancers, are encouraged to show appreciation by purchasing their favourite dancer a drink at the bar during intermission, so that the dancers can enjoy after the show. Lemieux also mentioned that The Man in Black will be performed by the National Ballet of Canada (June 16 to 22, 2018), but “tickets will be a lot more expensive.”

What an amazing production. Two unique pieces based, both based upon contemporary pop culture icons, yet both presented in completely different context. Neither piece is traditional dance, in terms of typical dance attire and delicate moves, yet the movements throughout each piece are carried out with fine finesse somehow. Looking for Elvis is an homage to The King, told not only through the seven dancers onstage, but also recordings of Elvis himself, discussing his thoughts on life, the music industry, and the loneliness that is so often part of the business. There’s also scattered images throughout that are projected onto the rear brick wall, often quite moving in themselves, especially the video of his funeral. The interspersing of his music, words, and imagery all work to create a production, that when combined with the dancers, makes for a wonderful dance theatre piece.

The Man In Black is comprised of four of the dancers from the previous piece, three male, one female. There’s no dialogue or images in this one, just Johnny’s songs played while the dancers interpret the words through movement. From his classics of the 60s and 70s to the more recent cover tunes he released around the time of his death, the emotional tale of this troubled individual is shown through the dark dances onstage. A variety of traditional dances suited to his music were performed throughout, including step, line, square, and swing.

As a fan of both Elvis and Johnny, I was thoroughly enthralled the entire evening. Contemporary and ballet meet pop culture pastiche in Elvis & The Man in Black, promising to shed fascinating new light on music’s greatest icons. A must see for a wonderful night of live entertainment!

In addition to serving as Artistic Director of C+C, Lemieux is a choreographer, performer, presenter, teacher and a Dora Award-winner. She has danced for some of Canada’s most prominent choreographers and has produced more than 25 of her own celebrated choreographic works. Inspired by a “pilgrimage” to Graceland in 2012, Lemieux was struck to create a new work inspired by the life of Elvis Presley. Weaving interview and song with movement, she investigates the duality of Presley’s life – his public persona versus his private identity. Looking For Elvis is so much more than a tribute to The King’s music. It’s a representation of Lemieux’s desire to reconcile the place of artists in the public forum, and their capacity to function in society.

Kudelka is considered one of the greatest choreographers of his generation, hailed by the New York Times as “ballet’s most original choreographer”. He has worked for many of the world’s leading ballet and contemporary dance companies. In 2008, Kudelka became C+C’s Resident Choreographer. Praised as a “masterpiece” (Globe and Mail), Kudelka’s The Man in Black is an unadorned salute to the American working class. Sporting cowboy boots, four dancers perform movement inspired by classic country-western dance styles such as line, square and step dancing, harkening back to the era when Johnny Cash ruled the airways. Joyful, humorous, but also sombre, The Man in Black portrays the emotional undertones of Cash’s music in surprising and moving ways.

Tickets to Elvis & The Man in Black are available online at: citadelcie.com/tickets

About Citadel + Compagnie (citadelcie.com)
Citadel + Compagnie, formerly Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, was founded by Bill Coleman and Laurence Lemieux in 2000. This Toronto-based professional dance company creates, produces and presents works on local, national and international scales from its home base in a former Salvation Army Citadel in the Regent Park neighborhood of Toronto.

Named in honour of its cherished home at The Citadel, C+C has evolved from a husband-and-wife run company to a distinguished organization with a renewed mandate of fostering cultural participation and nurturing creative excellence. C+C encourages artistic risk and innovation through its performing arts series, Bright Nights, and tours accessible works of contemporary dance across Canada. By demonstrating fearless artistic leadership backed by strong community engagement, C+C has established itself as one of the leading companies of its kind in Canada.

After nine years as artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada (1996-2005), James Kudelka was named C+C’s resident choreographer in 2008. With C+C, he has revisited some of his greatest works and developed challenging new contemporary creations. Kudelka’s presence at C+C has elevated the company’s profile, and offered audiences a new platform to experience the work of one of the country’s finest choreographers.

Elvis & The Man In Black
Dates: May 2-5 & 9-12, 2018, 8pm
Ticket prices:
Adults: $25 Seniors/Students/Artists: $20
The Citadel: Ross Centre for Dance, 304 Parliament Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2Z6
citadelcie.com or ph: 416-364-8011 (ext. 1)

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.