Sunday, October 2, 2016

“La Grande Sortie” by Alex Prager: A Two-Sided Stage at Lehmann Maupin Gallery

You are dancing under the spotlight, your shaky moves followed by hundreds of indifferent eyes. Reality fades as members of the audience begin to join you on stage. And poof. Suddenly, you are gone.

Alex Prager’s latest film inserts the viewer into a ballerina’s stage-fright episode on the opening night of her come-back show. The ten-minute short, commissioned by the Paris Opera Ballet, confronts the viewer’s expectations on performers by exposing the perspective of a dancer tormented by the demands of the audience.

Resembling movie stills, seven large-scale photographs hang on the white walls of the spacious first floor of the gallery. The film is screened upstairs in a dark room behind thick velvet curtains. From this floor, one can observe the people below, turning the gallery into a sort of inverse theater where the observed becomes the observer. As in the film, some of the photographs, like “Orchestra East, Section B”, show the distracted audience members, all dressed in 50’s costumes. The highly produced images have the cinematic sheen of a Hollywood melodrama. The rest of the photographs, like “Act III, Scene”, turn the camera around and portray the dramatically-lit figure of the ballerina dancing on-stage. 

Prager’s “La Grande Sortie” is a carefully choreographed show that moves the audience out of their comfortable seats into a performer’s darkest nightmare.


  1. I like the opening paragraph to set the stage of what the show is about. The closing sentence is a little bit wordy and could be cut down a little bit. You bring up the tension between viewer and performer but I think the tension lies more heavily on the performer since they are the one being watched.

    Overall I think this review is descriptive and is successful in telling the reader what the show is about and how to navigate it. Cindy Sherman is a great reference for this work and the use of video make it an evolution of her still photography.

  2. This is a wonderful description of the show, and the use of space – especially the relationship between the theater and the use of the balcony in the gallery. I think the synopsis you give of the film does a good job at giving just enough information to peak someone’s interest without giving too much away. The third paragraph did a good job leading me through the gallery, and I like how you managed to give the space itself some character. I agree with what Cary said about the last sentence. The idea it there, but it needs to be polished.