CA: Carol Anderson
BS: Bernard Sauvé
CF: Caroline Farquhar
AD: Alison Denham
Q: Questions and comments
CA: Welcome. I'm very happy that these three people from Lola Dance can be here with us today. As you know Lola Dance is performing Lola MacLaughlin's Provincial Essays on Friday and Saturday night at the Enwave Theatre. So I hope you can get down there to see the performance. I'll introduce our guests, and they will speak about various aspects of working with Lola. To introduce the subject of today's discussion, Lola MacLaughlin is a Vancouver choreographer whose company is in its twentieth year. Bernard Sauvé, Caroline Farquhar and Alison Denham are with us today and they all have different and interesting relationships to Lola's work. Bernard used to dance with Lola's company and now works with her as part of Eponymous, the arts management company who promote and support Lola Dance. Caroline was part of the creation process of Provincial Essays and Alison learned the role a little bit later in the life of the work.
BS: Hi everyone. My name is Bernard Sauvé and I'm going to start because I'm the oldest. I want to say also that there's life after dance. I used to dance for Ballet British Columbia and Judith Marcuse Dance Company from 1986 to about 1991. At that time, at Judith Marcuse's dance company, Lola was asked to come and set a piece on the company. It was called Cadence and that was my first experience with Lola. She had choreographed many solos and duets, but I'm not sure if this was one of her first experiences with a company. It was an interesting process because suddenly she had eight or ten dancers in front of her and she had to work with various people, individually and as a group. I think we were a bit daunting because we were seasoned dancers – meaning we all had our own personalities. We were all a bit older and we all had something to say, instead of being young dancers, listening very carefully and doing whatever we were told to do.
But Lola was very interesting in the fact that she was very precise about whatever she wanted to convey, and she was a very organized choreographer. I talk in the past tense because I'm over that dance career. Everything we had to do with Lola was very well researched, very precise, and whatever she wanted, she got. It's like that song, (in a singsong voice) “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets!” (laughter).
My favourite experience was working one-on-one with her; we all had our little parts, our little solos and duets. Working with her alone was great because she was very generous as a person. She worked with your own facilities – if you weren't able to do something you were not a loser. She'd use your body to do whatever you were able to do – which was really interesting – and then she would push from there with your body. Such was my first experience and actually my only experience as a dancer with Lola, and I truly enjoyed working with her.
I'll talk about a little move that she wanted us to do. We were wearing sheer costumes. They were black, you could see through them, and we were all making a joke, saying we should be naked under and she said, “No, no, no. We're not going to be naked.” Her movement was always quirky. I was dancing with a tiny dancer, and I'm six feet tall. Lola wanted to create an image of a person out on the water, looking at the ocean shore. She wanted me to crawl on my hands and knees with a flat back with this person on top of me. So you can imagine this little “ship” going across the middle of the stage. Easier said than done, because your back moves, but we figured out a way to do it and I think it was very successful because it really looked like this person was on a ship and looking at the shore. In another image that she wanted, my “passenger” would come down and be like a baby koala bear under the mother. So I kept crawling and then this person came under and hooked like a little koala bear, and that was always really fun to do, even if it was nerve-wracking.
That was my experience as a dancer and now I'm a manager of Eponymous. Eponymous is a cluster management company where we manage Holy Body Tattoo, Vancouver New Music, Crystal Pite/Kidd Pivot, Lola Dance, Sarah Chase, Wen Wei Dance. In this position I'm in contact with all these people. They all have their own personalities. They're all fun to work with. And what transpired working with Lola, from being a dancer working with her to a manager working with her, has been consistent. First of all, she researches inside out what she wants to do in the studio, but she also really wants to have her hands on everything that is happening in the office (laughs). She's very, very specific about what she wants. It took a long time to convince her that she didn't have to worry about touring problems, that what we wanted to do as managers was give her the studio, the artistic component, give everything related to the art to her and she didn't have to worry about studio rentals, sending people on tour, what hotel we are going to stay in, etc. Our goal is to make sure the artist feels confident enough that they don't have to worry about what's happening logistically in the office, but can really, one hundred percent, concentrate on the artistic product.
After that confidence came along it was amazing. It was really a negotiation, but I think she finally came to a place where she could really concentrate only on the art and not worry about whether she was going to be able to send six to ten people on tour.
Lola, in the studio, is very precise and dedicated – and in the office she's the same. I remember when she created Four Solos/Four Cities. It was about Berlin, Venice, Vienna and Brussels. And it's not easy to convey a city in a dance piece; however, I think Lola was very successful. I've never seen a person use so many books and so many pictures for research; and she had also travelled to these cities – this personal connection allowed her to take the spirit and flavour of a city and bring it into the work.
Provincial Essays is the same thing. There might not be five pirouettes and double tour en l'air, or rolling on the floor ... But it's like a painting. This is what Lola's work is all about. It's like a painting, so whatever you see on stage affects everything that is happening. There might be a person at the back, a person at the front, and the music and the lighting are part of the painting. There are rooms created on the stage, and it gives you a feeling – it's an encompassing work. You have to focus on the whole thing, so your eyes are sort of blurry, but you see this painting. For me it's always been like an Impressionist picture. You get an impression of the work in your body and in your feelings instead of thinking, “This is what it meant.”
CF: Okay it's my turn. My name is Caroline Farquhar. I have the unique experience that Lola was my first contemporary dance teacher ever. We've got this fantastic relationship. She met me when I was nine years old and she's touched in on every single point of my dance career in a beautiful, mentor kind of way. After my first classes with her, I went to Arts Umbrella and I was in their pre-professional program. Lola was the modern instructor there, but also set pieces on the pre-professional program. From Arts Umbrella I went to Simon Fraser University (SFU) and was in the Off-Centre Dance Company, which is part of the SFU contemporary dance program, and she managed to be the choreographer who was brought in to set a work on us. She set a work in which we would go out on stage and tape boxes and then spend the whole dance bouncing from box to box, forwards and backwards, across patterns.
AD: I think that is her work Brain Drain.
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