Immaculate melding

Keith Gallasch

These Lucy Guerin creations have finally made it to Sydney after a tour of the USA where Melt and The Ends of Things won glowing plaudits. Melt is a triumph of invention, and new media artist Michaela French was heroine of the opening night along with Guerin and dancers Stephanie Lake and Kirstie McCracken. Like Guerin’s best work, Robbery Waitress on Bail, Melt is a work complete in conception, here a pulsing organism comprising entwined dancers framed and patterned with fluent painterly geometries of light and image. It is not just that bodies and images are in fine sync but the demands of the projected framing are precisely met by the choreography’s anchoring of the dancers, generating a largely upper body focus with marvellous work with arms and hands (lines rippling along them) and resonating with South-East Asian dance traditions. The women ‘melt’, their bodies separate, projections go on the boil as does the dancing until the togetherness and apartness of the relationship stabilise into acceptance. On the way there’s magical play with images of flowers, snow crystals and shards of ice caught on bodies, cupped in hands and a breathtaking moment when McKracken leaps onto Lake’s breast like a child and a projected red net flies across her back, brief warmth and comfort amidst the chill.

The Ends of Things has the wonderful Trevor Patrick as an oldster miming his way through morning rituals in comically outsize clothes. Patrick’s persona owes something to Chaplin and Keaton-timing deftly based on distraction and delayed responses. Outside his little abode (back projections create domestic details), a trio of youthful phantasmic figures dance abstract patterns. Occasionally they’re in parallel with the old man—he folds a shirt, they fold each other as if ordering lives and relationships. Soon they enter his life unseen but disorienting it (the best of this is in Guerin’s facility for entwining her characters, here in knots with Patrick at his bewildered best), eventually dismantling his house and, it appears, setting him free while they freeze. Something has ended, something begun, even in old age. While The Ends of Things is finely made and frequently inventive, the metaphysical promise of the title is not matched by the pervasive whimsy and the trio dancing becomes predictable. It’s at its best in Patrick, especially when a darker comic dimension emerges—the pants-down, bum-baring exhibitionist in-the-privacy of-his-own-home.

Melt and The Ends of Things, Lucy Guerin Inc, The Studio, Sydney Opera House, Nov 18-23

RealTime issue #58 Dec-Jan 2003

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2003