Leonard Cohen’s DANCE ME

Leonard Cohen’s DANCE ME

Les Ballet Jazz de Montréal

Ideation, Louis Robitaille

Dramaturgy and stage direction, Eric Jean

Choreography by Andonis Foniadakis, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Ihsan Rusten

Music direction, Martin Leon

Music conception, Alexis Dumais

Scenography and prop conception, Pierre-Etienne Locos

Scenography and Technical Direction, Alexandre Brunet

Lighting design and production, Cédric Delorme-Boichard Simon Beetschen

Video design HUB Studio, Gonzalo Solid, Thomas Payette, Jeremy Fassio

Costume design, Anne Marie Veevaete

Assistance stage direction, Elsa Posing

Sound engineer, Gary Fortin

It’s hard to believe that just a little over two years ago this past November (on Nov. 10, 2016 to be exact), Leonard Cohen’s death was announced to the people of the world. 

My kismet had it that I would be in Montreal on that day with my partner who was attending an academic conference. After checking into our favorite auberge on St. Denis, we headed to the Italian restaurant next door for dinner. The lovely meal was enhanced by a medley of Leonard Cohen songs being played in the background. We mentioned to the waiter how nice it was to hear that particular album and the waiter responded by saying, “yes, he will be greatly missed.” It was then that we learned of his passing and the announcement that had come earlier in the day while we were en route from Toronto.

The next day, while my partner attended the conference, I met up with my godson who was then doing graduate studies at the University of Montréal. We felt that a suitable tribute to Leonard’s memory would be to have lunch at Schwartz’s Deli. We weren’t the only ones with that idea. At noon on a chilly day, the line was already quite long extending down the block. And it seemed like everyone had a Leonard Cohen story to tell – even my godson, Camilo!

That morning he had been speaking with a musician friend of his who had done some studio recording work with Cohen. As the afternoon rehearsal wore on, the musicians were getting quite hungry. Cohen finally interrupted work and suggested someone make a run to Schwartz’s to pick up sandwiches for the band. So off this fellow went with the poet yelling after him, “Just tell them to put it on Lenny’s tab!”

So the guy gets to Schwartz’s and orders his smoked meat sandwiches to go. When he gets to the cashier, he says, “Could you put this on Lenny Cohen’s tab please?” And the cashier says, “Which one?”  The guy says, “What do you mean?” The cashier replies, “Lenny Cohen the lawyer or Lenny Cohen the singer?”.  The guy says: “The singer.” Whereupon the cashier says nonchalantly, “Yeah, OK.”

Although there were no pastrami sandwiches (my personal favorite at Schwartz’s) to be had at Toronto’s Sony Centre on Saturday night, there was the undeniable presence of Lenard Cohen in body, spirit and soul.  

Leonard Cohen’s DANCE ME, was approved by the artist while he was still living. The indefatigable Louis Robitaille, with dramaturgical support from Eric Jean, has assembled an ensemble of choreographers, dancers and two vocalists (with interpolated music by Cohen himself) and a playlist of 17 songs that covers the essential Cohen to provide a robust, moving tribute to this soulful artist who began and ended his life’s journey in his beloved city of Montréal.

Andonis Foniadakis, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Ihsan Rusten have provided the zest and pacing for this jukebox dancical that contains all the right moves. Their choreographic work is enhanced by lighting, scenography and videography that all comes together for a remarkable performance. BJM has been granted the dance rights to Cohen’s music for the next five years and by the looks of its two night sold out stand at the Sony Centre, the tour will easily have legs over the next little while. Don’t miss this show if it comes to a stage near you.

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