Expectation and revelation

Philipa Rothfield: Lucy Guerin Inc, Melt

Ros Warby, Melt

Ros Warby, Melt

Ros Warby, Melt

The promotional imagery from Lucy Guerin’s dance work Melt was quite dramatic, suggesting molten states, seismic shifts in movement and emotion and rapid change. Perhaps it was this that provoked the diverse opinions about the show—a work of 2 very different halves. Some people liked one and not the other. Such are the results of mixing expectation with revelation and the fact that Guerin’s recent works differ in appearance and emphasis regarding narrative, theme, timbre and use of space.

Part 1 of Melt was performed in a small square inside a larger space. Ros Warby and Stephanie Lake’s bodies were inscribed by the motion graphics of Michaela French and bathed in Franc Tetaz’ sound score. A duet, or a foursome perhaps, the result was a tightly interwoven, sensory compendium. Dressed in tight long skirts, Warby and Lake used inventive arm gestures. Lit simply by the projection itself, their movement was precisely executed to complement painterly backgrounds (cyber-Klee and Kandinsky) and right-angled, linear tracings. The result was a 3-D shadow puppetry that transgressed the flatness of projection. Warby and Lake were connected like Victorian love seats: one facing the front, the other to the back. Their bodies were centaur-like, grounded and circumscribed. Sometimes they were upstaged by their shadows and then their flesh would emerge in a rare display of facial expression. Sculpture was contrasted with speed. The molten theme in this part of the work arose from changes of quality, tempo and character, the compositional experimentation from spatial constraints, a dialogue between movement, projection and the faint imagery of emotion.

Part 2 included all 5 performers, traversing the larger space. The women were dressed in green tops, orange kilts and socks, the 2 men in subtler tones of grey. A spy-cool trio (Robinson, Mills and Kremerskothen) entered along the wall, settling in a corner. They worked nicely together, moving through material that was recognisably Guerin: a play on turnout, strength and length in the lower limbs, an archeology of ballet’s compass, an overlay of invention. Several relationships occurred among cameo performances by an able cast, creating momentary images. A circle dance wove around Warby, the centre of the dancers’ attention. An unwilling recipient, she crawled off sideways, vulnerable. Lake performed a balletic turn on her haunches. Eyes rotating slowly. There was a kind of neutrality to this quirkiness, a sense of time taken in its development, making room for little things to emerge. For example, I remember someone sitting down, just letting their legs sweep the ground. Nothing much. Unadorned yet unusually elaborated.

The squarish space of the Chunky Move Studio (beautifully converted) was covered over time in a broad sweep from a wall-hugging dance toward the back, down and across into the space. In the beginning of this section the corner became a dwelling of sorts. Later, other spots were inhabited rather than simply passed through. Because the dancers did not equally cover the room with their movements, there was an asymmetry about the use of space. There were also asymmetries of quality (for example Stephanie Lake did a series of introverted Lady Macbeth movements, while Mills and Kremerskothen were smooth swans, graceful and aerial). Some danced whilst others dwelt.

I emerged from Melt with a sense of creative patience; despite a great deal of dancing and collaboration, Lucy Guerin gave herself room to compose. Peel off the story, the theme, the sound and the fury and an evocative formation remains (distinctive, captivating, exploring movement, finding moments). The imagery and bodily composition of Melt were its imaginative aspects. When new movement material is found, this is the vision at work. Nothing big. It’s only the movement of bodies. That’s what I was left with at the end. A sense of quiet composition, of a sketchbook developed over time into a work.

Melt, Lucy Guerin Inc, choreography Lucy Guerin, dancers Kyle Kremerskothen, Stephanie Lake, Toby Mills, Phoebe Robinson, Ros Warby, motion graphics Michaela French, sound Franc Tetaz; Chunky Move Studios, Melbourne, Sept 19-29

See Jonathan Marshall’s interview with Lucy Guerin

RealTime issue #52 Dec-Jan 2002 pg. 26

© Philipa Rothfield; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2002