INTERIORS choreography by Laurence Lemieux presented by Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie and the National Arts Centre at the Enwave (231 Queens Quay West). Tonight through Saturday (Thursday, October 25 to 27), 8 pm. $17-$27. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN
The family that plays together stays together. But what about the family that dances together?
Laurence Lemieux is finding out during the rehearsals for Interiors, a full-length piece she's choreographed for herself, her partner, Bill Coleman, and their two children, Jimmy and Juliette, aged 11 and 8.
"I've wanted to create this live picture or portrait with the kids for a while," says the remarkable dancer and choreographer, a few days before the piece's world premiere. "Before now they were too young, and I wanted to make it before they became teenagers and got too old."
It's a Sunday afternoon, and we're sitting in the family's second-floor studio on Parliament. I've just watched most of a run-through, which includes Jimmy and Juliette dancing - they're born performers - and playing on the sidelines.
"It's fun and it's work," the two kids tell me afterwards. "It's a bit of both." What would they rather be doing? "Playing," they chime in unison before going off to do more of that.
"They're almost too old now," says Lemieux. "They like dancing, but they pretend they don't."
Coleman, who's been talking with one of Interiors' designers up till now, joins us on a bench.
"Most kids don't show too much interest in what their parents do," he says. "It seems like these two actually like dancing. They don't seem to have a problem with it."
Jimmy is currently enrolled at the National Ballet school, while Juliette is in an alternative school and takes dance classes at night.
"We weren't the kind of parents who brought the kids to the studio," Lemieux tells me. "They would find it so boring. If you took them to a modern dance show they'd fall asleep in 10 minutes. But they were around dancers and lighting designers their whole life. Juliette's seen Cinderella twice, they both like The Nutcracker."
"And," adds Coleman, "we take them on tour with us. They can participate in the world if they like. And sometimes we do stuff outdoors with other people, so we involve them. Luckily, many of our shows are accessible."
Interiors is split into three sections.
The first introduces the members of the family. The second consists mostly of a duet between the two parents. And the third features the parents collapsing on the floor in sleep, while the two kids play around them and then finally rest, too. Lemieux relates a lot to the second section, which recounts what she calls "the slightly mechanical side of living as a couple."
"Gee, maybe I shouldn't be listening to this," says Coleman, pretending to feel slighted.
"In that section I'm trying to express the chaos of domestic life," says Lemieux. "It's like when you clean up the house. You begin doing one thing, then get distracted. You start the laundry, then move on to something else. When you've got a family, you deal with all of these things in tiny compartments. You don't have the luxury of thinking about one big, grand idea for more than a minute."
Things are even crazier than usual for the Coleman-Lemieux family. Although their company is still based in Montreal, they've returned to T.O. (they met in the Toronto Dance Theatre in the early 1990s) and have purchased the building they rehearse and live in. All told, they've been here five weeks, which included getting the two kids in school.
"We're going to be operating out of Toronto now," says Coleman. "About three-quarters of our company's dancers are based here. We work a lot with (Toronto choreographer) James Kudelka, and most of the composers and set designers we work with live here."
And how do the kids feel about working a floor below where they live?
"It's fun, because we don't have to walk far," says Jimmy. "But maybe there are too many stairs."
Additional Interview Audio Clips
Lemieux on the use of paper in the show: