As though preparing a site-specific work with a cast of 60 for a 50,000-square-foot public pool was not complicated enough, choreographer Noémie Lafrance is contending with rain, which washed out her scheduled dress rehearsal. Yet she’s obliging and forthcoming in the midst of that added challenge, as she discusses the ideas behind Agora II, the even more ambitious follow-up to last year’s Agora, which helped catapult Greenpoint’s long-abandoned McCarren Park Pool back into public awareness and transform it into one of the year’s most talked-about new performance spaces.
“It’s a big challenge to really embrace that space, so I’ve been working on developing the piece in the direction where we really go from showing the emptiness and the breadth that it has, and then go into really filling it and moving it,” explains the French-Canadian choreographer, known for creating work in unlikely spaces.
This year’s piece, which aims to “challenge the interactions between public space, performance and audience,” incorporates elements of last year’s work, but also significantly expands on it. The cast (consisting of dancers, actors and musicians) is twice as large, and there’s also a live sound component (directed by Bora Yoon) that sometimes overlaps with the recorded music by Brooks Williams and Norm Scott.
“I’ve always been a big believer in continuing to work on a piece,” explains Lafrance. “That’s not a very trendy thing, but I don’t think that ‘new’ is the only important value. To develop something with more depth is more interesting.”
The title refers to the central marketplace of an ancient Greek town, and last year’s work concluded with its own contemporary marketplace scene—with the audience members were invited to join in the action. “It really created a feeling of community—people coming together in a space, an agora. That’s the feeling of Agora II, but I think in a more visceral way, with a lot of bodies.”
This time, the audience will play an even bigger role in what Lafrance terms a “choreographic game.” She explains,“Audience members are being made part of four different teams. You’re trying to achieve a collective gesture with as much grace as possible within the parameter of what your mission is. It’s sort of an aesthetic game. The teams are playing against each other, but it’s understated. You don’t win anything. You’re working with your team, really trying to achieve your moment.” And if you needed further incentive, the admission price for “players,” those wishing to join a team, is less than the cost for the (presumably more timid) “viewers.”
Since Lafrance first tapped the expansive, neglected site’s possibilities a year ago, it’s been used for concerts and a film series, and she’s been consistently involved in reclaiming it as a viable public space. She is pleased with the initial developments, “I think the essential is there: that the space is being revived and used by the community. The space actually is interesting as it is, and we can use it and develop it. So I’m hoping we’re going to be able to bring in more money and continue to explore its possibilities, use it for a variety of things.”
September 13-16; 20-23; 27-30. McCarren Park Pool, Lorimer St. (betw. Driggs Ave. & Bayard St.), 718-388-6309; 8, Player $20/Viewer $30. www.sensproductions.org.