I sat down with San Francisco-based artist and performer, Jesse Hewit, in November before his upcoming performance, Freedom, as a part of a shared evening with fellow Bay Area choreographer, Laura Arrington.Read More
Due to my overwhelming schedule prior to my departure for Brussels, I was not able to see anything at Performa07 in New York City. One work I wanted to see was Xavier Le Roy's Le Sacre du Printemps. So I was happy to find out that PARTS had organized a bus to see a performance of the work in Valenciennes, France (about 1 1/2 hours from Brussels) at the Lignes de Corps Festival. I must admit I'm tired of how many versions of Le Sacre du Printemps there are. It's like artists reinventing the wheel. However, Le Roy's approach to the work is very interesting to me. His impetus for the work is solely through the music via the movement a conductor produces by directing the music. So the work is strictly that – Le Roy is alone on stage with his back to the audience and starts to conduct the empty space and after a few moments he turns and begins to "conduct" the audience.
Le Roy admits he is not a musician and that he is merely moving to the music – He makes mistakes. Musicians can see the mistakes, but it doesn't matter because the movement evolves and morphs into a dance, which strongly references conducting. In an after-talk he explains how the work is a combination of copying specific movements from conductors he has observed and the embellishment of conductor-like movements.
I really became aware of the music and less about the "conducting" and ironically, the music was composed for a dance, but then he dances the music through "conducting" and what I finally experience more is the music, rather than the dance. This layering of intention and perception is quite complex and leaves me thinking about how much of what I experience in the world is layered and complex in a similar way.
There is also a specific use of space in relation to the sound. Le Roy works with a sound person who places speakers under the audience in the set up of an orchestra. He points to the audience in various locations depending of what instrument he is cuing. As a result, as spectators we become passive performers. The experience strongly reminded me of my past experiences of being in orchestras and at the same time not.
This idea of copying, replication & appropriation seems to be a reoccurring theme among the work I have seen in Europe and of the work that I'm told some students at PARTS make. In my 4th week at PARTS I will be taking a workshop with Mette Ingvartsen based on this trend. From what she tells me, it is a way of really understanding the trend so that you can produce work not only of the trend, but to also produce work outside of the trend.
On November 23rd I went to Leuven, Belgium (1/2 hour from Brussels) with some classmates from PARTS to see Why We Love Action at a theater called STUK. The work was by Mette Ingvartsen, a former PARTS student, who at a very young age has gained major acclaim as a choreographer. The work opens with an action-filled sequence of stunt moves from the movies. This all takes place on an entirely lime green set, with a backdrop, floor, furniture, blankets and pillows. Dramatic action, crying, mystery, and murder scenes from cinema are demonstrated. These cinematic moments are bare on there own, but gain a more cinematic feel with the use of loud sound affects and vocalizations made by people offstage for the performers onstage. The performers overact, which seems intentional, since replicating scenes from cinema is not the same as acting on stage. Maybe when one tries to imitate cinema in front of a live audience it becomes more apparent how ridiculous and false cinema is.
The construct of cinema is highlighted when elements are taken away or added. For instance, at one point the performers articulate the actions of crying, but cease from vocalizing the crying. It makes me think about the idea of going through the motions or crying, without crying. Stunt actions and dramatic scenes are embellished by repeating events, or by having multiple performers execute action. Things are often done longer than in the cinema or done in unison – maybe this is necessary in order to amplify elements that are so strong on film, but may not translate to a theater.
Like in cinema, the work is very episodic with blackouts between scenes. The piece seems over and then a film sequence is played, much like the ending credits in films. There is video of various clips from the rehearsal process of the work. Ironic mishaps are shown with people asking "are you ok?" during a choreographed stunt scene. Most of the time they are ok, except when one of the dancers actually gets punched in the nose – a choreographic error.
It's strange, as I'm writing this I'm debating whether I should reveal too much about the work. I usually don't have this question with other works, but maybe because of the cinematic references, I may subconsciously feel like I'm writing about a movie – but I'm not at all.