CriticalDance Forum

Mon Apr 23, 2007: Xavier LeRoy
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Author:  Karl Cronin [ Sun Apr 15, 2007 5:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Mon Apr 23, 2007: Xavier LeRoy

Xavier Le Roy: Product of Circumstances (1999)

MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies at Simmons Hall ( Cambridge )

Author:  Karl Cronin [ Tue Apr 24, 2007 6:20 am ]
Post subject: 

I'm very curious to hear people's thoughts on this performance.

Xavier's earnest and candid recounting of the circumstances that have shaped his life spoke directly to experiences I had while making the leap from scientific research to art making. What one can see from the vantage point of audience member are the areas of overlap between these two communities. Many scientists and many artists are deeply concerned with exploring, documenting, and sharing truths about their world. There are also many in each field whom, whether due to fear or "capitalistic" greed, spend "50%" or more of their time engaged in the politics of their chosen field.

What I found in this performance was something I spend a great deal of time looking for (whether in art, social environments, etc). If someone can show me their best attempt at understanding who they are and what they have seen in their lives, there is the potential for a deep and meaningful connection to my own experiences. This takes technical mastery and compositional focus, but it also takes openness and the ability to show one's journey with at least a little bit of level-handedness (so that we can see and experience each element without filtering). Xavier does these things with palpable sincerity and intelligence.

Author:  Guest [ Wed Apr 25, 2007 10:52 am ]
Post subject:  process to product (of circumstance)

i was struck by the formulaic structure which set up a clear binary between lecture (transformed into storytelling) and demonstration (he talks, he takes off the lapel microphone, he does something, returns to the podium, puts back on the microphone, talks some more and it goes on like this until the end, never straying). the biography of the performer was revealed over time in a very calculated way

i was fascinated by the presence of history -- not only of Xavier Le Roy's own personal history (including his re-enactment of a scene from his own work, Self-Unfinished) but the history of dance (Yvonne Rainer's chair and pillow dance) and of modern-dance process (the demonstration of a "group" dance)

the piece made me think about the move from process to product - the performance itself is a product which the artist now sells and presents -- this in itself is a reduction of experience and yet Xavier Le Roy mentions the motivations of his own choices in life being driven by things like love, quest for truth, inadequacey (I was really struck by the moment when he measures the difference of the span of his arms on a door frame to his height and demonstrates the "problem" that might have caused his failure to win the dance auditions he was pursuing at one point in his life) and so these more ambiguous, emotionally driven states really loomed over the performance for me in a very compelling way

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Apr 25, 2007 7:57 pm ]
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Xavier Leroy is one of the leading exponents of what is often called in Europe "conceptual dance". From a technology perspective, an interesting point is that such works often have minimalist technology, including zero lighting changes.

Tallinn, Estonia is one of the centres for conceptual dance in Europe and here is a section of my review of a Le Roy performance at the 2005 August Dance Festival:

"Each year Tallinn’s Augusti Tantsufestival explores the cutting edge of contemporary dance and performance art – my first visit included an improvised presentation from a painter and a cellist, concluding with the musician completing a canvas by smearing on black paint….with his hair. The most challenging performance this year was Xavier Leroy’s “Project” and when the programme notes told us of an “investigation into the relation between production, process, and product in dance and theatre” one feared that the piece may be hard work. In fact this exploration of games and performance was great fun. One standard philosophical question concerns how we differentiate between dance and dance-like practices such as football, with one answer relating to purpose.

“Project” opens with movements without a ball, which seem clearly to be a dance. When a football is introduced, we see more random movement and goals being scored, and scores read out at the end of the short game. Then a version of handball is introduced, with complications relating to a four-sided pitch and when these two games are mixed together and the team members play for different sides in the different games, I decided that these were choreographed and therefore not true games, but dance. However it turns out that even the most arcane of these manoeuvrings was still a game with rules worked out and a proper scoring system. So, was it dance or a game? Later, we saw repeated moves, clearly choreographed but then with a random element….aahhh! Finally a single performer repeats some of the moves without a ball and I was happy to call that “dance”. Much fun was had by all, including the nineteen performers from across Europe."

As you can see although there was much movement, it was certainly debatable whether this was "dance". However, it was witty and stimulating and that's good enough for me. BTW, very low use of technology throughout.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Apr 26, 2007 3:05 am ]
Post subject: 

Another quick thought on the "is it dance" question. Jerome Bel, another major conceptual dance artist, was taken to court in Ireland on this issue in 2004 on the point whether there was a breach of contract by the festival organisers.

Although the case against Bel was thrown out, the Judge ruled: "...within the narrow confines of breach of contract, that the festival hadn't negligently misled the public," giving a hint that he didn't think it was really dance either.

More from "Dance Magazine": ... i_n6358582

Author:  Karl Cronin [ Mon Apr 30, 2007 11:51 am ]
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What a bizarre and interesting situation!

It makes me curious to hear of other cases in which the definition of dance has been explored and defined by judicial bodies.

Audience members and academics will dispute until the end of time as to what "should" be classified as dance, but dance-makers will continue to exemplify through their work and self-definitions the broad range of what "is" considered dance (even if only by a small number of people).

With Xavier, I was delighted to see his clear embrace of "low-fi" technology. The retracting projector screen and the clip-on microphone were masterfully wielded and brought in as compositional elements alongside his particular way of using his limbs and his plainly-spoken delivery of his experiences. Here is an example of a performer who had clearly spent time with his tools (a criticism voiced several times during the conference in response to the general dearth of artists who develop virtousic manipulation of tools).

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