Xavier Le Roy’s “Product of Circumstances” was billed as dance performance. But what one got from Le Roy was more akin to a Ph.D. presentation as well as a honest baring of his outlier’s questioning soul.
Granted, the show was booked at EMPAC where descriptions/classifications of a performance genre is always debatable. Yet this was an extreme case as Le Roy spoke more than he danced. Only 10 minutes out of 75 featured movement. The majority of the time, he explained his research on breast cancer, its relationships to hormones and the effect of the drug Tamoxifen. Using a slide projector, he clicked through images of cancerous cells, discussed a computer program that helped determine the concentrations in the cells as well as discussed Tamoxifen’s effects on four different cells.
Occasionally, he stopped to tell the audience that during his research, he played basketball and took dance and yoga classes. He demonstrated a step or an exercise. He tried to touch his toes, sat on a chair swinging his arm, lay still on the floor or held onto his podium to extend his legs and pointe his feet in a ballet barre.
These little asides were so out of place that appeared humorous. But Le Roy said his aim was to illuminate his lecture with movement. But more precisely, the movement, as it grew more complex, demonstrated how he was separating himself from the minutia of scientific study of the human body and replacing it with the study of his own body.
Either way, Le Roy was disillusioned. As a microbiologist, he found publishing was more important than worthy discovery. As a dancer with weak technique, he discovered productions were more important than sincere exploration of art and physicality. Again, he could not cast himself into the field’s expectations.
Thus, he goes out on his own, lecturing on science while dancing, defying to fit any mold.
All of his musing was placed in a small space that was made to feel both like a laboratory and a lecture hall. With the lights up, most of the time, the audience became students, trapped in a lecture they didn’t quite understand, or academic peers, either intrigued or dismayed by Le Roy’s rebellion.
“Product of Circumstances” highlighted Le Roy’s interest in the dysfunctions of the body, either through disease or in physical limitations of an adult attempting something new. It also established how uncomfortable Le Roy felt in his role as insider and this solo was his attempt to justify his rejection of the status quo.
Yet in the end, he offered up too much rationalizing and not enough doing. At some point, Le Roy needed to stop talking and dance.
He did, briefly, in the end — halting and jerking and making noises with his mouth — to appear as a robot. While entertaining, it was too little, too late.