The legacy of international recording artist Lhasa lives on in the multi-disciplinary Danse Lhasa Danse from gay Montreal choreographer Pierre-Paul Savoie.
The first time in Vancouver, Danse Lhasa Danse brings together seven dancers, four singers and five instrumentalists in a tribute to Lhasa de Sela, the award-winning Montreal-based world music singer/songwriter who lost her battle with cancer in 2010. The show is part of this year’s PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.
While a fan of de Sela, who is better known by the mononym Lhasa, it wasn’t until Savoie had heard she had died that he picked up her last album, the self-titled Lhasa, and fully began to appreciate her talent.
“She was someone who speaks really deeply to us,” says Savoie of her music. “I felt so strong about what she was saying that I wanted to make her work resonate and created this tribute this to her.”
Despite a career cut short, Lhasa earned critical acclaim with three albums and her concerts around the globe. Singing in Spanish, English, and French, Lhasa reached a world-wide audience that resulted in four JUNO nominations and a win for Best Global Album in 1998. She was also named “Best Artist of the Americas” by the BBC World Music Awards in 2005.
But while a definite tribute and celebration of Lhasa’s music, Savoie insists that Danse Lhasa Danse will also resonate with those that may not be familiar with her work.
“We’ve done 25 shows and what I’ve realized is that it appeals to everybody,” says Savoie. “From teenagers to old people there is something about Lhasa’s music that connects with people. What makes this piece different and why so many people can relate is that it is a connection of three art forms – music, singing and dancing – not one beside each other, but really mixed together. You feel a real energy in the three.”
Using six of Lhasa’s songs, Danse Lhasa Danse is not a linear look at her discography, but uses what Savoie calls a “dramatic curve” to take the audience on a journey of life and death that includes appearances by Lhasa herself through recordings and photographs. “We can feel her presence; there is an angel in the show,” he says.
Talking passionately about Lhasa and her music during our telephone conversation, one immediately recognizes the deep connection that Savoie appears to have found that many recording artists only dream of, and one he hopes translates to the audience.
“Through this show we have an opportunity to present a deep experience through Lhasa’s music,” says Savoie. “When art achieves that, it is such a beautiful moment because it has an opportunity to change people from the inside.”
Danse Lhasa Danse plays as part of the 2014 Vancouver PuSh International Performing Arts Festival on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. Visit http:///pushfestival.ca for tickets and information.