Self Unfinished review: Xavier Le Roy bares his bottom and soul in transformative performance – Sydney Morning Herald

November 18, 2015

By Jill Sykes

Article Lead - wide1002811008gl1or1image.related.articleLeadwide.729x410.gl1pxc.png1447844657072.jpg-620x349

Carriageworks, November 17 and 15. Until November 19 and 22

Xavier Le Roy is an extraordinary creative artist whose work is on show in Sydney this week as a performer and a choreographer, thanks to Kaldor Public Art Projects and Carriageworks.

Self Unfinished is a solo he made in 1998 and it still takes the breath away. His naked body seems transformed as, bottom up and back to the audience, head tucked out of sight, he stands and walks on his shoulders, legs behind him and mostly unseen. His arms change shape from de facto legs to misshapen limbs of indeterminate description to the muscled arms of a dancer.

This basic outline of what you see (best from the middle of a row) is just the starting point for the viewer’s imagination to take flight. You might find it eerie, confronting, funny, fascinating, disturbing, Dali-esque – Le Roy allows plenty of time to contemplate and digest the ideas he is offering, with subtle body shifts to spark the attention.

And this is only part of a performance that begins and ends fully clothed in garments which strip down from shirt and trousers via an ankle length tube of a dress.

Le Roy’s actions range from robotic – accompanied by self-made mechanical sounds – to the deceptively simple task of walking backwards, but very slowly and with perfect balance. Every move he makes is refined to the last detail – and leavened with wit. Amazing.

We cannot expect the same level of performance in Temporary Title, a new piece created over the past few weeks with 18 Australian performers. Besides, the concept is different – what Le Roy calls an exhibition. It is in a handsome studio, carpeted for the occasion, and the audience is invited to come and go as they would for an art show in a gallery.

The performers – some dancers, others not – are naked and moving on hands and knees. It is like watching a pride of lions, whose ways of moving are the inspiration here: stay long enough and observe them closely and you will get to know characters as well as movement styles. It can be compelling viewing.

The performers’ ages range across five decades, with the seniors having most to say through their body language, while the juniors appeal for their youthful potential. Le Roy and his colleague Scarlet Yu have developed the piece as a collaboration with the performers, who make individual and collective decisions on their next moves as it develops – and will no doubt build on resonances of this experience for years to come.

Image: Choreographer Xavier Le Roy’s Temporary Title at Carriage Works . Photo: James Brickwood