IMPRESSIONS: The White Box Project

IMPRESSIONS: The White Box Project
Trina Mannino/Follow @Trinamannino on Twitter

By Trina Mannino/Follow @Trinamannino on Twitter
View Profile | More From This Author

Published on October 6, 2011

IMPRESSION: The White Box Project

Conceived by Noémie Lafrance and produced by Sens Production
at The Black & White Gallery, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Saturday Sept 24th, 2011

©Trina Mannino for The Dance Enthusiast

The White Box Project -Photo Courtesy of Sens Production
When I entered the small space of the Black & White Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I was transported back to the middle of summer. The heavy, humid air enveloped me, instantly making me sweat. While I waited outside to catch a cool breeze, I couldn’t help but notice the crowd’s anxious energy. I too was teeming with anticipation to see choreographer Noémie Lafrance’s latest site-specific endeavor, The White Box Project.

This installation project has had an air of mystery surrounding it. Prior to my visit, it had already taken place for two weekends in September, each performance slightly different in choreography, audience participation and energy. What would it be like tonight? Suspense also lay within the performance site. This completely white-walled, rectangular courtyard lent no clues as to what would later transpire.

When “start time” rolled around, no performer materialized. Instead, bystanders began looking sheepishly at one another. I was beginning to think I had been “hoodwinked”, that the gathering of people milling about the courtyard was the

“It still feels like a work-in-progress to me as much as it does to probably everyone." 
          - Noemie Lafrance
performance itself, when suddenly, two figures in the corners of the courtyard began to create expansive shapes with their limbs, moving as if they were flies on the walls. More bodies emerged, fixing themselves side by side on the cement ground like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. At this point it seemed apparent who the “viewers” and who the “dancers” were. Yet, later in a talk back session, a few people who were part of the puzzle revealed that they were indeed audience members.
The White Box - Photo Courtesy of Sens Production

“In that (puzzle piece) section, we offered the idea: here is something simple that you can do or you can watch,” says Lafrance. “(When) you start to see that we’re all in the same space and you see other people who clearly aren’t dancers lie down. Then you think that it is permitted.”

As someone who attended only one performance on the last weekend of the project, my viewing and participatory experience was quite different from that of anyone who came during the first weekend. Feedback and reassessment were major components of The White Box Project and integral to the development of the work week after week.
“Every night was different.” Lafrance mentioned her audiences’ feed back from the first week as an example. “They said, we want you to invite us in more, we want more one on one connection.”

"Participation doesn’t end with the show itself.” 
        - Noemie Lafrance

After receiving this input, the choreographer and her cast incorporated sections in which the dancers personally invited audience members to join them in a task. Dancer, Fabio A. Tavares DaSilva, asked me to help him lead a crowd in the task of walking forwards and backwards while describing our actions verbally. As the work organically came to close with four groups of audience members and dancers gesturing and sounding towards the center of the gallery, I enjoyed feeling that I had been an essential part of this unique communal performance.
The White Box - Photo Courtesy of Sens Production
While discussing her future plans, Lafrance revealed that The White Box Project continues to evolve, “It still feels like a work-in-progress to me as much as it does to probably everyone. I think it is interesting to expose the process to the audience and share it with them. Participation doesn’t end with the show itself.”
The White Box- Photo Courtesy of Sens-Production


Related Features

More from this Author