Words by Soph Landau
Booms and thuds fill the AC Arts theatre; the percussive score like an electric heart that ticks its way into the chests’ of the audience.
Dancers Melanie Lane and Lilian Steiner stand at an arm’s length apart beside one another, moving in synchronicity in the low-lit space. Constrained in a white rectangle marked with tape on the floor, Lane wears an earth-toned dress, Steiner wears no clothing. A vessel; a soul.
For the next fifty minutes they dance mechanically, gently, abruptly, elegantly. Each chapter taking half the length of time as the one before. The vessel and soul work together and fight one another to unfold a narrative of tension, harmony, and struggle within the self.
The dancers use the tape to split their space in half.
Adelaide born choreographer Lucy Guerin created “Split” in 2017 after working intimately with the two dancers, challenging the concepts and practice of contemporary dance. The Helpmann Award winning artist aimed to “burrow into the pure elements of choreography; time, space, structure, and the movement of the human body”.
They split their space in half.
Guerin employed the vessel and soul as tools to explore inner battles within the mind, addressing detachment and the deterioration of mental health in the process. Hunter-gatherer inspired movements like digging and searching, as well as disco elements, provocative floor work, and fine finger movements were stand out details in the overwhelming display.
They split their space in half. And again. And again.
Working harmoniously or destructively, the dancers explore temptation and redemption with the consumption of “forbidden fruit”; the indulgence perhaps indicative of a destructive path of “party culture”. This theme was intensified by the booming, beating score and consistent disco movements.
Lane and Steiner, now dripping with sweat, have only seconds to perform. The vessel falls back into the darkness; the audience feels winded as the stage lights take their final breath. Did they triumph? Were they defeated? Perhaps there is truth to both.
The physical drama showcasing inner battles, modern pressures, and restriction of time and space has cemented Lucy Guerin as one of Australia’s most evocative creators. Split is a remarkable piece of contemporary dance, and an achievement of the awesome human body.