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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 25 MARCH 2017 — Founded in 2002, Lucy Guerin Inc. is an Australian modern dance company which has become known for its creative spirit and freshness, for its unpretentious exploration of all the possibilities that dance can offer. The works of the dancer/choreographer, Lucy Guerin, in the repertoire of such companies as the Lyon Opera Ballet and Baryshnikov’s White Oak Project, surprise by their originality and off-beat imaginative approach, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Motion Picture.

Created in 2015, the piece has the American thriller, Dead on Arrival, directed by Rudolph Maté, as its inspiration and soundtrack. And while one might expect to hear the score of the film accompanying the dance, Guerin has actually used the entire black and white movie as ‘soundtrack’. In this cinematic dance piece, Dead on Arrival is transformed into movement by six dancers on stage who mimic and mime both dialogue and action, to the extent of doors slamming and characters smoking cigarettes. The black, white and grey costumes by Robert Cousins, who was also responsible for the effective décor, reflect those worn in the film.

The movie, a classic ‘film noir’ dating back to 1950, tells the story of Frank Bigelow who spends the last few days of his life investigating his own murder. He has been poisoned with a luminous toxin and wants to know why and by whom. In Motion Picture, Guerin has used the film, shown projected high up on the sides of the theatre for the interpreters to watch rather than the spectators, (who had to crane their necks to see), less as a danced narrative than as a score to be danced to.

Motion Picture
Choreography: Lucy Guerin

Her work opens with Bigelow, brilliantly interpreted by Alisdair Macindoe, apparently crossing the stage to join a projected ever growing white screen on the backcloth, walking quickly on the spot but without moving forward.  He’s joined by 5 other members of the company including his assistant, Paula, who we understand is in love with him and upset that he is leaving her for a week’s vacation in San Francisco.

In a remarkable solo/duet, Macdoe plays both Bigelow and Paula, jumping with grace and agility from side to side as he mimes a conversation with his mistress. Throughout the work, Guerin repeatedly has three interpreters taking over the role of one character in the film, and then conversely, one character playing the role of more than one person. A particularly fascinating sequence is when the audience sees Paula and Frank multiplied by three.

The audience is in fact caught between the screens above showing the film, amused when a woman Bigelow has encountered in a nightclub slurs, "I’ve found a man who can dance; I’m gonna hang on to him", then intrigued by the dancers below in this unexpected collision of two purportedly different art forms.  Lucy Guerin, as much as Maté in his film, has engaged her own enquiry, creating movements which reflect not simply the story but the atmosphere and emotions of the film. But as the action in the movie progresses with Bigelow’s discovery of why he had to be eliminated, the film no longer acts as a guide to the performers and the narrative in the dance becomes more abstract. However, when the filmed images break down and the dance becomes more theatrical, some of the original impetus is lost and one begins to regret the humour of the first part of the piece, due in great part to the superb presence of Alisdair Macindoe.

Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Based in Paris,  Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.

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