Anyone with even the faintest of familiarities with Leonard Cohen – perhaps with his signature grey fedora or, even more likely, with his remarkably gravelly voice – knows about the legendary Montreal songwriter’s 1984 classic, “Dance Me to the End of Love”. It’s been covered countless times over by artists as wide-ranging as jazz vocalist Madeleine Peyroux and techno producer Misstress Barbara. Scottish artist Jack Vettriano named a painting after the song, and a Danish company even performed a haunting, Cohen-inspired show, Dance Me to the End On/Off Love, at the Centaur Theatre just a few years ago.
Upon first listen, the song taps into Cohen’s career-spanning penchant for doomed romances. But eerily evocative lyrics such as “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin / Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in” also allude to the string quartets that played at Nazi death camps as fellow prisoners were incinerated or gassed, as Cohen himself explained to journalists following the song’s release.
It’s precisely that kind of deeply melancholy rumination on life, death and the fleeting nature of it all that makes Cohen’s music such an inherently private listening experience. Contrary to songs that call for irrepressible foot tapping or collective chanting, Cohen fans appreciate pondering over his songs’ enigmatic beauty and romantic despair in a kind of cathartic solitary confinement.
Because if there’s one thing Cohen shares with so many of the finest movement makers out there, it’s an appreciation for silence and its ability to evoke feelings that are simply beyond the limits of language. That, in a nutshell, goes to the heart of every dancer’s intent: to convey emotions by transcending not only words but also rhythms and modulations. It’s something Cohen pulled off effortlessly, sometimes with the mere intensity of a gaze. Now, some of our most beloved choreographers tap into Cohen’s lyrical passion and surrender to its beauty on the stage.
There will be no choreography danced to the music of Leonard Cohen during the show. There will be musical interludes between danced pieces during which his songs will be interpreted by Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal.