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Parallel & Simultaneous: Lucian Delacroix in the High Desert
by Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer

It seems like all we’re ever thirsting for is a moment of magic. We want and love to believe that something impossible is real. It must be hard-wired genetically, an evolutionarily beneficial tendency that helps us to survive this world—optimists live longer. I don’t know about you, but I got mine last week at Lucian Delacroix’s The Way I Move Myself Around, 2011.

A New Orleans native currently based in Brussels, Delacroix initially trained as a classical dancer, a star rising in the ranks of the New York City Ballet company during the early 80s before the seismic trauma of a near-death car crash turned his world upside down and abruptly ended his ballet career. Surviving bodily intact, his range of motion was compromised. He could still dance, but God knew how. More than that, the accident had left him touched, changed; his ambition had phoenixed. He disappeared for some time, first heading south into the Amazonian jungle to study dance and spiritual motility with the Bora tribe, then traveling east to China, apprenticing with flying apsara masters of dragon dancing. He remained overseas and mostly off the dance world’s radar, apart from three brief but notorious and decisive residencies at STREB Extreme Action Company in Brooklyn in the 90s, in which Delacroix guest choreographed a number of mostly improvised, high-impact, gravity-defying collision dances with fellow visionary Elizabeth Streb.

Throughout the decades, Delacroix worked his way towards a unifying theory of human movement. Moving beyond dance, he occupied himself with problems of gravity. He practiced falling incessantly. Incorporating all that he learned from his esoteric Amazonian and Chinese training, he concentrated on cultivating an intensive state of physical self-knowledge that could extend his control of his body to the cellular level. Just as advanced yogis can control their heart rate at will through extreme breathing practices, Delacroix learned to control and modify the effect of gravity on his falling body. Short of defying it, he eventually gained the power to slow and stretch gravity to his desired pace, so that a single leap sends him gliding, frictionless, through space for three protracted seconds. Jumping up in the air, he descends with the utmost control over several seconds to land softly and soundlessly on the ground. It took nine years of single-minded focus and work just to be able to make his hair float weightlessly, holding its natural suspension for just a little longer than normal while airborn. 

In 2005, at the age of 45, Delacroix settled in Brussels and soon after reentered the public realm of performance, mostly doing unannounced, site-specific demonstrations, though also performing in theaters on rare occasions. A typical “dance” lasts mere minutes and consists of a few miraculously slow hops and leaps or a sequence of excruciatingly prolonged tumbles and falls. The effect is nearly exactly like watching normal dance (or, really, just aesthetic movement) at four times slow-motion, i.e. it is astonishing. Invited by High Desert Test Sites to do a month-long residency on 29 Palms military base, Delacroix performed last week in Southern California for the first time. Selecting a recent piece entitled The Way I Move Myself Around for his debut, Delacroix stood in silence among the desert dunes for nearly twenty minutes before powerfully launching himself into flight. Touching down but a handful of times, he charted an orbital path around the landscape, returning to his starting point a minute after he left.

—Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer

All images courtesy the artist. 

Posted by Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer on 6/14/11

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