Grace Edwards

Freelance writer – creative – media-maker

Published: Review: Lucy Guerin Inc. – Structure and Sadness

Lucy Guerin rediscovers a world on the brink of destruction in her acclaimed contemporary dance work, Structure and Sadness. Utilising the language of support, suspension, torsion and fall, the piece explores themes of shock and grief central to the tragic West Gate Bridge collapse in 1970, which killed 35 workers. Despite the sensitive subject matter, Structure and Sadness proved a work of rare beauty, presenting piercing insights with calculated subtlety.

First performed as part of the 2006 Melbourne International Arts Festival, Structure and Sadness was received warmly by critics and has since been toured internationally. It is not hard to see why.

Together, the dancers successfully illuminated the structural vulnerability of the world they have constructed onstage. At times entwined in mutual dependence with large bands of elastic, at other times adjusting to buoy planks of wood moving over their bodies. As living planks of steel, they tested gravity and flirted with disaster. Taking on the roles of workers, the dancers built a giant structure out of wood, held together only by the laws of physics. By the time the structure was complete, the audience was fully aware that it has been built to collapse.

Visual artist Michaela French’s motion graphics backdrop presented an electrifying metaphor for the shock of a catastrophe, alternately fragmenting and recollecting the image of the bridge. Sound designer Gerald Mair’s experimental score, on the other hand, isolated the groans and booms of infrastructure, which edged uncomfortably close to the sound of a human voice.

In a moving tribute to the workers who died on that fateful day, the final scene depicts the workers in abstract form, moving with quiet energy, twisting and joining in partnership to see their last project through. The concluding moments, in which the workers lay peacefully still underneath the bridge whilst the room faded to black was powerful, creating an image capable of etching itself in the memory for days.

Lucy Guerin Inc’s Structure and Sadness is an artfully constructed and sensitive study of fragility and memory. For a valid and stirring artistic experience, one needs to look no further than this poetic offering from one of the most successful contemporary dance companies in Australia.

Image Credit: Jeff Busby.
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This entry was posted on November 30, 2009 by in arts, dance, Lucy Guerin Inc, Reviews, Structure and Sadness.
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