Dance review: Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy


Last Friday

Like an intricate piece of origami, Xavier Le Roy's Retrospective is simple yet complex. The French molecular biologist turned choreographer presents a live exhibition featuring excerpts of his solo works from 1994 to 2010. These are situated within the individual retrospectives of 13 Singaporean performers, who take turns to inhabit the stark hall of 72-13.

A clever logic underscores Retrospective as four performers occupy each side of the room. One holds absolutely still, like a sculpture, another performs a sequence of movements repeatedly, like a video installation set on a loop. The other two share about their lives and artistic practices in relation to Le Roy's works until new visitors interrupt.

Audience members are free to enter the performance space, triggering a mechanical whir following which the performers dash out of the hall. Le Roy puts the audience at the fore, as each new visitor to his moving exhibition is greeted as such.

With the action taking place mostly on the parameters, the audience is huddled in the centre - strangers almost instantly united by uncertainty. That is, until they read Retrospective like a game and begin to understand its rules. Accompanied by fervent conducting, Igor Stravinsky's dissonant Rite of Spring is often background music to a performer's narration. There is determination in stillness, and sincerity in movement.

Le Roy's work is rich with evocative images that are transformed with each performer's iteration. Glimpses of ballet and Maori haka in 2001's Giszelle give way to a spidery reconfiguration of the body in 1998's Self Unfinished. There is much to look at around the room and Retrospective both draws and distracts.

The idiosyncratic personalities of Retrospective's cast give it its staying power. From Kai Eng's start as a figure skater practising double loops to land on one leg, to Bernice Lee's gawky solo to the National Anthem, these diverse, fascinating stories converge in the present day. There is a collective sigh when a story is interrupted, and audience members patiently wait to eventually hear it in its entirety. The work, the room and its people are in constant flux, participating in a dialogue in and of time.

Unlike explicitly participatory art, Retrospective invites and makes no requests. The intimacy of conversation seems impossible and out of place in such a setting, but it is charmingly achieved. Audience members are acknowledged, addressed, and subsequently, they are entirely absorbed, assuming their central role in the work unconsciously.

The adjacent room contains footage and literature of Le Roy's works, as well as the cogs and bolts of the Singaporean edition of Retrospective. There need not be any guesses, as performers are on hand to converse about the experience and further immerse audiences in Le Roy's curious time warp.

Veterans of the Singapore dance scene like Aaron Khek of now-defunct Ah Hock and Peng Yu join ardent young artists in this production, their individual retrospectives via Le Roy's weaving together to form a retrospective of dance in Singapore.

One evening is but a moving snapshot; Retrospective compels multiple viewings.



Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: Daily till 2 August, 1-9 pm

Admission: $10


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