Le Sacre du Printemps

Le Sacre du Printemps (2007) by Xavier Le Roy, Musik: Igor Stravinsky
© Vincent Cavavoc

The point of departure for Xavier Le Roy’s solo was the video recording of a rehearsal of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps with the Berlin Philharmonic.[1] Le Roy began to study the courses of the movement and the facial expressions of the conductor Sir Simon Rattle from a choreographic perspective. Moments from this, which could be seen because of the camera setting and editing, formed the basic structure of a choreography, which by adapting Rattle’s interpretation and consulting other material in order to master the composition developed an individual conductory grasp of the music. In Le Sacre du Printemps, Le Roy investigates the act of conducting as a moved-moving performance and the relationship between corporeality and sound experience.

The dancer faces the audience from the front. The arrangement of the theater seats corresponds to the arrangement of musicians in the orchestra. This spatial positioning is amplified by a 48-part loudspeaker system that is placed lying and standing on the floor and directly under the seats, so that for each of the 120 viewers, the sound impression from each of the corresponding 120 positions in the orchestra can be transmitted.

Le Roy performs the physical process of conducting to the respective rehearsal recordings of Sacre, breaking the fragile illusion of playback-conducting in a few places and indicating this as such. At the same time, he dissects the overall context of generating sound as a sensuous physical process into its responsibilities and components. It becomes possible to experience them as aspects of productivity and receptivity, yet they remain interconnected and mutually referential. The expressive theatrics released in the functional gestural work of the conductor are taken up as form and movement and placed in a charged relationship to the physical passiveness of the audience. The performer-conductor plays his fictive resonance body with his demanding gestures. Under full lighting, Xavier Le Roy directly addresses the individual instruments, calling for entrances with suggestive eye contact and authoritarian winks, which the respective viewer is unable to give, but which automatically sound from the loudspeakers under the seats nevertheless.

The choice of Le Sacre du Printemps inevitably alludes to one of the most famous scandals in the history of dance: at the premiere of the work by the Ballets Russes in 1913 in Paris, the doubly disturbing and innovative dynamic between music and dance in the choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky provoked an uproar among supporters and adversaries in the audience.

However, Xavier Le Roy’s matter-of-fact engagement is more interested in the piece as a field of investigation into the complicated interplay of trigger and effect in the live situation of a theater and music performance. Le Roy has explored music as a performative practice since 2005 in a series of pieces, in part using professional musicians as performers; in Sacre, he also explores the effect that performer and audience have on one another, as well as how their relationship oscillates between exercising power and dependency, suggestion and resistance.

The recording used is enclosed as a bonus track in the DVD edition of the successful documentary film Rhythm Is It! (2004).