Xavier Le Roy, Self-Unfinished
Hailing from Montpellier in the south of France, Xavier Le Roy is a renowned modern choreographer (and former biochemist) whose work kneads together space, human body, and machine. After seeing his recent performance "Self-Unfinished" at Boston's ICA, I caught up with him at Simmons Hall at MIT, where he is currently in residency, and asked him all my burning questions in the flesh.
In Self-Unfinished, you move into an alluring, muscular shape where you fold in half but then seem to transform into two separate, crawling bodies. How did that hybrid form arise? Was it a position you initially envisioned and sought to emulate, or did it emerge from what felt right?
It was a bit of both -- from the start I wanted to experiment with different strategies to make the head disappear. I set my task to reconfigure the body in a space where the head becomes invisible, and it took many tries. Many hours of being alone with a camera, doing and then watching, doing and then watching.
It's interesting. Obviously, there are cultural differences in the way that people perceive space -- from an upstanding American handshake to the easy closeness with which the French kiss both cheeks. I have not seen drastic differences in the audiences between here and Europe, but I will never forget my performance in Moscow. The Russians laughed from beginning to end -- and while my piece certainly has elements of humor, it turned into a kind of action-reaction show, and it was a bit difficult for me to perform a streamlined continuum of movements. Only afterwards did I realize that they probably thought I was channeling Marcel Marceau, the famous French mime and entertainer.
In Asia, particularly Singapore, the audience was amazingly silent - and that was fascinatingly extreme as well. But it is difficult to make these generalizations about culture, especially when one remember who is in my audiences - it is a subset with certain expectations about visual art performance that represent a very specific cross-section of each culture.
How do you prepare your body for the endurance and intensity of your dances? Do you have a personal routine?
I do a series of stretches and release techniques - very much similar to yoga, in that I make my own mixture of poses. What's my favorite pose I use to relax? Ah, that would be lying down. My practice has surely transformed with my age. But I must always warm up and stay healthy, since I'm constantly moving, traveling, and generally being a nomad.
Photographs by Katrin Schoof