French choreographer/artist Xavier LeRoy has staged his “Retrospective” in Singapore, Paris, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro and Hamburg before arriving at PS1 MoMA in Long Island City for a two-month run starting October 2, 2014. In NYC, as in all the places this work has touched-down in, a rotating cast of local performers transform excerpts from earlier dances into a site-specific, dancer-specific piece honoring the contributions of the assembled team as much as the choreography of LeRoy. Designed as a work that tackles “the question of performance at a contemporary art institution,” the white, empty space at PS1/MoMA creates a setting for a dance with ever-changing configurations of audience, which the dancers interact with, and cause to move, watch, and, eventually, leave.
Brooklyn dancer K.J. Homes invited people to gather round her and listen to her story, as other dancers made darting entrances and exits through the space, often using voices. “Mostly, when I was a little girl, I liked to sing,” she tells us, before offering a few moments of Joni Mitchell. She ties her autobiography into presented excerpts from different LeRoy works by talking about the way his style of moving dovetailed with her own explorations of pedestrian movement, voice and theater. At one point she moves her assembled crowd to a new area, just as other dancers run through the space where she had just been standing.
In an adjoining room, three computers await audience members curious to see LeRoy himself on video. His version of “Le Sacre du Printemps” from 2012 offers the conceit of a man in jeans and tennis shoes conducting a recording of the Stravinsky score, facing the audience. “Movements guide the spectator’s listening,” he wrote in program notes. LeRoy took conducting lessons, and copied the movements of Simon Rattle in a performance of the score. He also studied dances by Nijinsky, Pina Bausch, Bejart, Preljocaj and Martha Graham and let some of those choreographers movements creep-in or inform some of the more climactic moments of his conducting performance.
A black alcove next to the bank of computers contains barely visible shrouded figures, slumped against the walls. LeRoy collaborated with Japanese Butoh masters in earlier days. Here, the stillness is presented as a riddle. Is that shape a person? A dancer? Is that moving?