Lucy Guerin Inc. has become one of Melbourne’s most esteemed contemporary dance companies since it was founded by the choreographer of the same name 20 years ago. Known for her exploration of liberation techniques and experimental practice, Guerin’s new work hits audiences with renewed impact on the 2022 reopening stages. Flow Task explores disaster and collective loss through movement, dialogue and audiovisual media. The artistry of this piece featured prominently in the second half, where, according to Guerin, the dancers co-created the narrative through monologues that developed into a startling sequence of rapid kicks, limpid turns and weight shifts in trance. Guérin is quoted in The Guardian saying that the choreography is “like being possessed”, and the performance certainly seemed to play with the space between the voluntary and the involuntary; the living and the dead; self-determination and destiny; our inner and outer cosmos.
The ease and fluidity of the dancers going through the different movements of the piece were, as always with Guerin, expert. The four dancers – Tra Mi Dinh, Amber McCartney, Lilian Steiner and Geoffrey Watson – moved through kaleidoscopic primary colors to their own dance phrases. Angular and sticky at the same time, their tight, offbeat dance on different tempos had the surrealism of a silent disco. Kudos to Andrew Treloar who designed the costumes: shiny and semi-transparent in the first part and black and impenetrable in the second. These garments captured the chaos and darkness of the subject; the last two years, after the pandemic.
Flow Task was created during Melbourne’s very long COVID lockdown. After the premiere, Guerin said the monologues in the final section of the performance were co-created with the dancers on Zoom, and as such are very successful snapshots of their feelings and memories for a period. strange isolation. The dialogue was compelling and well-voiced, which isn’t always a given in dance performances; it matched the timbre of the room perfectly and had a great effect.
Read: Book review: Only a Monster, Vanessa Len
Geoffrey Watson recounted a memory of attending a moonlit party in Europe and navigating a culture of fiercely different religion and intolerance towards various sexualities and genders. There were resonances with the other stories, as chasms, wolves, and other occult images were mentioned; a sense of enigma and despair pervaded the conversation. Behind a long table, lined with make-up mirrors, dancers combed their hair with powder and creased their faces in the chalk-white light. Thanks to Paul Lim for his innovative use of lighting to enhance the drama, and to Adena Jacobs for his excellent dramaturgy.
There was always a glimmer of hope and potential in the production, expressed most clearly in the finale. Here, the four dancers, arms crossed and sparkling in the bright light, stomped, kicked and strutted across the stage in an angular waltz, reminiscent of the Dance of the cygnets in the ballet Swan Lake. The sleepwalking way the dancers executed this delicate not four seemed to speak to the remarkable perseverance of humanity, especially when we connect with each other in times of crisis.
An exhilarating return to the stage for Melbourne’s illustrious contemporary dance company.
Lucy Guerin Inc
House of Arts, North Melbourne
Choreographer: Lucy Guerin with the dancers
Dancers: Amber McCartney, Geoffrey Watson, Lilian Steiner, Tra Mi Dinh
Lighting designer: Paul Lim
Composer and sound designer: Jethro Woodward
Costume Designer: Andrew Treloar
Playwright: Adena Jacobs
Director: Zsuzsa Gaynor Mihaly
Liner: Georgia Rudd
Production manager: Bao Ngouansavanh (Théâtre Dos à Dos)
Producer: Estelle Conley
Executive Producer: Brendan O’Connell
Flow Task was played from March 16 to 20, 2022