Noémie Lafrance/Sens Productions

September 13, 2005

Noémie Lafrance/Sens Productions
McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, NY

September 13–October 1, 2005

Reviewed by Susan Yung


Noémi Lafrance’s latest site-specific project, Agora, due to the venue, feels less like a dance performance than an experimental Superbowl halftime show. Williamsburg’s McCarren Park Pool, designed by Robert Moses and built by the WPA in 1936, was shuttered in 1983. The massive scale of the pool is nearly incomprehensible—the size of a football field, it was built to accommodate 6,800 swimmers. As impressive is the bathing house marking the pool entrance. Its arches soar high overhead and extend into rampart-like wings—more castle than public utility, of a scale and quality that is humbling to the modern eye.

Lafrance has found ways, some effective and others less so, to take advantage of the vast space’s inherent theatricality. The ebb and flow of different characters (47 performers in all) resembles a snapshot of the city and its daily cycles. Dramatically lit solo figures take center pool, most memorably a woman in a flowing gown tiptoeing on a crack, a celebrity striding on a red carpet, a disco dancer below a mirrored ball. Performers engage in one-on-one interactions with viewers. Sequences of clustered group movements—an aerobics class, a crowd egging on a flamenco dancer, a club’s worth of disco dancers—also make a strong impact. However, when the action spreads over the entire pool, it can dissipate into the ether.

Several performers made cameos, most appropriately two kamikaze STREB dancers belly flopping into a tiny wading pool, as well as Young Dance Collective dashing energetically from one end to the other. Lafrance literally created an agora (outdoor market) for the finale; most of the audience made its way into the pool’s center to mingle with the performers, who now hawked goods.

Lafrance’s projects—most notably Descent, performed in a staircase, and Noir, in a parking lot—often sound like captivating concepts but suffer from logistical details and the harshness of reality. Her most ambitious work takes place on an invisible bureaucratic/political level, and New Yorkers should be grateful that she has become enamored with the city’s public spaces. See