Is there a Canadian dance aesthetic? I put the question to Laurence Lemieux, co-founder (with her husband, Bill Coleman) of Montreal-based Coleman Lemieux&Compagnie, which makes its Portland debut Wednesday, Nov. 14. We can expect to see "truly Canadian content" from the 11-member dance troupe, Lemieux tells me. But what does that mean? How does CLC compare to other Canadian dance we might know?

"It's hard to say—it's not ethnic dance," Lemieux says ruefully during our telephone conversation. "It's athletic, but you have that in the States." Maybe there's more of a North American aesthetic, she later decides, the subtleties of which Europeans might recognize even if Americans don't. She can tell you what CLC is not: It's not the edgy, multimedia spectacle of Montrealers like Marie Chouinard, O Vertigo or La La La Human Steps, although it shares some of their physicality. And it's not the classical dance of the Royal Winnipeg or the National Ballet of Canada, although it does have something in common with NBC: a body of work by its former artistic director, James Kudelka (whose Almost Mozart is now ensconced in Oregon Ballet Theatre's repertory).

In fact, when CLC comes here, it will dance only material by Kudelka, whom Lemieux first encountered as a dance student. Pieces include Fifteen Heterosexual Duets , set to Beethoven's "Kreutzer" sonata, which Lemieux says is less an exploration of sexuality than of the many ways (romantic, furious, wary) men and women physically relate to one another. That said, this isn't an exclusively hetero outing: There's also Soudain, l'hiver dernier , a tender duet for two men, set to the more modern strains of Gavin Bryars. And, finally, there is In Paradisum , a dance of death incorporating the theories of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. The lure of Kudelka's work generally, Lemieux says, is that it's "beautiful, well-crafted, energetic. There's a passionate physicality, very exciting to watch." And working with what she calls her country's greatest choreographer is a source of pride for the dancers, all of whom are Canadian. "Actually," she says, "one of them is American. But he's been living here for 25 years."


Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, 790-2787. 7:30 pm Wednesday, Nov. 14. $20-$50.