Amelia choreography by Édouard Lock. Presented by La La La Human Steps at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East), Tuesday (February 10) at 8 pm. $45-$65. 416-872-2262. Rating: NNNNN
édouard lock wants you to trust your vision. "If you wave your hand really quickly in front of your eyes, all you see is a trail where your hand has been," the mind behind the powerhouse moves of La La La Human Steps tells me on the phone from Vancouver.
"In that moment your hand becomes a wisp. People want to explain it as a result of the motion. They don't want to accept that human beings can actually look like that."
If there's a central theme to the veteran choreographer's work, it's this wavering line between perception and reality.
In Amelia, La La La's ninth show - halfway through its three-year world tour (it hits Toronto Tuesday) - Lock continues to explore this what-you-see-is-what-you-get mindset.
Although there are fewer bodies flinging through the air than in his previous works, Lock's trademark use of hundreds of intricate gestures performed at warp speed remains. Five of the eight dancers perform on toe with an emphasis on upper body work that will make your abs hurt just watching.
If audiences leave feeling like they've just spent 90 minutes in Space Mountain, that's fine with Lock.
"When you have dancers doing lots of details at fast speeds with all sorts of shadows on them," he explains, "then for a split second you stop seeing them as what they should look like and start seeing them as what they do look like."
Clearly, Lock's intention is to screw with your head. John Munro's stark black and white lighting and set designer Stéphane Roy's monolithic slabs further mess with perception by alternately hiding and illuminating body parts.
The result, Lock hopes, is that no two people will see the same Amelia.
"It's like walking around in the city trying to focus on something. A bus goes by and someone tries to get your attention. There are all sorts of interferences, and you decide which one is going to be inserted into your reality."
Just don't try to analyze it. Although his current production was inspired by experiences in his early 20s with two transvestite friends (Amelia was one of them), Lock refuses to give his production a narrative.
Nor should audiences assume that the non-traditional costumes in one of the final duets has anything to do with role reversals. However, Zophia Tujaka does wear a man's suit, while her partner, Billy (no last name), follows her lead on point.
"My work isn't gender-specific," he says matter-of-factly. "It turned out the gentleman had point technique, and so he's on point in part of it."
As for women wearing the pants and doing the heavy lifting?
"That isn't reversing," he insists. "It's equalizing."