Artist Spotlight: Lucy Guerin

Lucy Guerin and her contemporary company have traveled more than 9,000 miles from Australia to perform her award-winning work Structure and Sadness in the Doris Duke Theatre August 18-22. This stirring evening-length work is inspired by the 1970 collapse of the West Gate Bridge in Melbourne and explores theories of collapse and rebuilding, both emotional and physical. Part contemporary dance work, part visual art and design experience, Structure and Sadness is an arresting, interesting cultural experience.

Guerin is one of Australia's most acclaimed young choreographers and we asked her to give us the inside scoop on her work and artistic vision.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Melbourne and am the Artistic director of Lucy Guerin Inc. I trained in Adelaide, moved to Sydney, and then to New York where I spent seven years dancing and choreographing. This time had a huge influence on me and I think of it very fondly. I have been back in Melbourne for 14 years now, creating my own work. My company tries to support and encourage a new generation of dancers in Melbourne and support the development of the dance scene here.

I have a partner Gideon Obarzanek who is also a choreographer [and Artistic Director of Chunky Move] and a stepson Jordan who is 16 years old.

You and your company recently arrived at the Pillow; what are you looking forward to the most?

I have been to the Pillow once before a long time ago and I remember it as green and beautiful. I'm looking forward to spending time with my company in this lovely place which has such a strong connection to the history of contemporary dance and seeing Structure and Sadness performed in a new theatre.

How would you describe your choreography?

My choreography uses a lot of sequencing in the torso and details in the hands and fingers. It is quite physical and also has a functional aspect [in Structure and Sadness] which relates to the construction of the bridge. There is not much sentimentality in my relationship to movement.

Please give us a sneak preview, what was your inspiration for Structure and Sadness?

This work grew out of a desire to work on structure, both the structure of a dance and the building of a material structure. We worked on the dance by applying principles of engineering to the human body, compression, tension, torsion etc. I went to the hardware store (my favourite thing) at the beginning of the work and bought some materials for us to experiment with in the studio, bits of wood, shock cord etc. It was very time consuming work, and not without risk. The collaboration with Bluebottle (the design team) was key in this work. And the dancers contributed amazing and varied skills to the development of the dance and to the construction the set. Don't want to give too much away at this point.

Without giving anything away, Structure and Sadness focuses on hope and rebuilding, as well as community tragedy. How do you balance the two?

The Westgate Bridge is an essential connector between communities in Australia but it is also a symbol of negligence and loss for many people, and they are reminded of the tragedy whenever they drive over it. However the younger people in my company had never heard of the collapse. For them it is a part of history.

Rebuilding is inevitable, it is human nature. We are amazing creatures in that way.

What can audiences expect to experience at the Pillow?

I would like people to have a new sense of their bodies in relation to their material surroundings, and to experience gravity and notice the supporting structures around them, not in a fearful way but as the space that has been created for them to inhabit. To think about how fragile and fleeting their lives are.

I would like them to be reminded of the small details that can accumulate to cause large events and to see the beauty of solid forms and their transience both in the human body and in the structures on stage. I'd like them to experience the invisible forces both physical and emotional that shape our lives.

But, having said all of this... if audiences find any moment of surprise, beauty, interest, anticipation or are touched in any way I will be happy. It's not always what the choreographer intends the viewer to see that has an impact. People's own histories and experiences all shape the way they view a performance and what they take away with them.

Don't miss Lucy Guerin Inc's Structure and Sadness in the Doris Duke Theatre August 18-22. Click here for more information on the engagement.

Next PillowPages article: Calvin Royal III receives Lorna Strassler Award

photo above: Lucy Guerin Inc in Structures and Sadness; photo Jeff Busby

PillowPages August 2010:
Artist Spotlight on Lucy Guerin

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