Lucy Guerin Inc.
Lucy Guerin Inc is an Australian dance company established in Melbourne in 2002 to create and tour new dance works. Renowned for the skill and originality of its small group of performers, it is a flexible organisation dedicated to challenging and extending the art of contemporary dance. The company is committed to the exploration of everyday events and the redefinition of the formal concerns of dance.
Lucy Guerin Inc.: The Dark Chorus
Lucy Guerin unleashes a dance premiere that will enfold you in the embrace of darkness.
The dramatic chorus is both the voice of the people and of your most intimate thoughts, a moving sculpture of bodies and concepts made flesh. From the mind of one of Australia’s most renowned choreographers springs a commanding new work that reaches back to the roots of ancient theatre to create something entirely of the now.
A moving whispering classical chorus weaves around the outskirts of the work, growing and shrinking as the main action takes place. Shadow and illumination, the individual and the mob, the fantastic and the all-too-real – these opposites melt into each other in a compelling maelstrom of dance with an irresistible undertow.
Images: Gregory Lorenzutti
Dark Mofo Festival
17 June 2017
World Premiere Melbourne Festival
Meat Market VIC
06 - 12 October 2016
Choreographer and Director: Lucy Guerin
Dancers: Benjamin Hancock, Stephanie Lake, Jessie Oshodi, Lilian Steiner and Tyrone Robinson
Composer: Robin Fox
Production Manager and Lighting Designer: Paul Lim
Costume Designers: Benjamin Hancock and Harriet Oxley
Chorus Costume Design and Construction: Jack Hancock
Dramaturg: Adena Jacobs
Production Coordinator: Emily O'Brien
Stage Manager: Bindi Green
Executive Producer: Annette Vieusseux
Assistant Producer: Claire Bradley Duke
"Talented as he is at making both sharp, precise movements and graceful, flowing gestures, dancer Benjamin Hancock also does an excellent job of playing dead – something he demonstrates well in The Dark Chorus. His body goes limp as he is dragged around by others in the ensemble, who are dressed in mod-Elizabethan black gowns."
Lucy Guerin's Dark Chorus dances through light and shade
Pre Opening Review
"Anchoring The Dark Chorus are dancers Benjamin Hancock and Stephanie Lake. Hancock is the last one to unzip from the protection and confinement of his dress, yet he is also the character who is unable to find his way back to the darkness.."
The Dark Chorus creates chilling interplay between light and darkness
LUCY Guerin is not a choreographer to sit on her laurels. With every new project for Lucy Guerin Inc she embraces a different, solidly researched idea. All the shows in her extensive repertoire are unique into themselves.
There are glimpses of her signature angular, breath-driven vocabulary in The Dark Chorus (premiering in the Melbourne Festival), but the piece is much more meta than a collection of choreographic phrases. A ritualistic structure breaks away from expectation; ultimately it’s an abstract, sometimes disorienting work that leaves much to personal interpretation.
Around a clearly defined circle of light in the otherwise dark and wildly vast, heritage-listed Meat Market performance space, a procession of black, Victorian inspired figures shuffle, sway and whisper menacingly. All is not calm within the ceremonial pacing, as a featured ensemble strip to summery white clothes and explore a more complex and frenetic vocabulary, frequently goaded by the extended chorus to move more dynamically or make more eye contact.
Are these subliminal voices inside one’s head? Or are they, as it appears, overt and external? This dichotomy propels the sustained activity, culminating in a more literal and extended sequence of the snarky chorus commanding step-by-step instructions for Benjamin Hancock to both dominate and be submissive to a plain cardboard box.
The main dance quintet — Lilian Steiner, Tyrone Robinson, Jessie Oshodi, Stephanie Lake and Hancock are fully committed to the tense and singular focus of the experience. Lake, who has danced for Guerin for nearly two decades, has a veteran surety and the younger performers have a tight command of Guerin’s detailed style.
Lighting designer Paul Lim’s centre light reveals more about the shades around it than the light itself while Robin Fox’s sound composition intersects with the rustles and hisses of the live chorus. It’s not until late in the piece that the costume detail — by Hancock and Harriet Oxley — comes into full view and this too forms an important component of the overall vision."
Lucy Guerin’s The Dark Chorus, as part of the Melbourne Festival
"The Dark Chorus’s final phase diverges drastically from what has come before, utilising Benjamin Hancock’s svelte figure, long blonde hair and high kicks in a gender-bending dance pantomime. Hancock is distanced and elevated from his colleagues in this technical showcase, and for added comic effect he even dons a purple petticoat, a pale yellow turtleneck jumper and a red pointy hat. He is bossed around by the imposing group, and as any docile body would, he submits and performs – notably: gymnastic routines and sex acts with a cardboard box.
Hancock’s ‘character’ then opts to disobey commands, and his defiance provokes the dark chorus to enter the performance space, ultimately ‘consuming’ him with the sheer volume of their black garments. The work concludes as the cast exit at the back of the stage, revealing a naked and lifeless Hancock on the floor."
The Dark Chorus
"Gradually the chorus becomes more controlling, shouting out instructions during a quasi-combative duet between Hancock and Robinson to take more risks with their movement. Eventually Hancock becomes the target and victim. Alone, isolated and vulnerable in the centre of the circle, he is manipulated and humiliated as the chorus who put him through a series of routines with a cardboard box."
Guerin creates an intriguing world of shadows and light with a sinister beauty
"You don't notice it as you first enter the Meat Market, but then a shadow catches your eye and you stop and take a second glance. And it's then you see a figure cloaked in a black gown, head down slowly walking in the darkness around a circle of light. And then you see another, and another, and another, until it’s all you can see, and you wonder how you didn't see them in the first place, which is the perfect way to describe the thoughts and themes explored in Lucy Guerin's brilliant dance work, The Dark Chorus.
Presented as part of Melbourne Festival, the show is an intimate look at the darker thoughts and voices in our heads and how they can consume us. Throughout the performance, The Dark Chorus can be heard whispering and chanting and while you can only make out some of what is being said, feelings of dread and fear slowly seep inside you.
Guerin's choreography is a juxtaposition of strength and weakness, of resilience and fragility. The five dancers (Benjamin Hancock, Stephanie Lake, Jessie Oshodi, Lilian Steiner and Tyrone Robinson) are incredibly committed and keep perfect time with each other in some complex and fast moves that demand much from their bodies. Hancock is a particular standout with extensions and flexibility that need to be witnessed and possesses strong control throughout some difficult and testing choreography.
The atmosphere in the large performance space is expertly created by Paul Lim’s lighting design, with one large overheard spotlight pointing down onto the stage being - for the most part - the only source of light in the show. The chorus walk around it, never entering into the circle and it’s only when the dancers remove their black cloaks (beautifully designed by Harriet Oxley and Benjamin Hancock with Chorus costume design by Jack Hancock) that they may enter. Yet even when reduced to plain white shorts and singlets - baring themselves to be free - the shadows illuminated on their face and body sends the message that they are still haunted and plagued by these thoughts; that there is no escape.
The tense composition by Robin Fox further supports the tenebrosity of The Dark Chorus with various sounds and music dropping in and out, creating a strong feeling of unease and never quite knowing what is going to happen next.
The Dark Chorus is within us all and for some it is less obvious and overpowering, but the struggle is always present. The meaning behind a show such as this will always come down to interpretation and what you choose to derive from it. Upon walking out of the performance, my initial response was one of bleakness and despair but upon closer reflection I found a sense of hope in The Dark Chorus, one that reached out to me, that told me this isn’t a losing battle."
Guerin creates an intriguing world of shadows and light with a sinister beauty
Lucy Guerin Inc. - Untrained
Four men take to the stage in Untrained. Two are highly skilled, experienced dancers and two have no movement training at all. The complex, refined movements that one man executes with ease can only be approximated by another. All are given the same instructions, but how they execute them reveals a portrait of each man’s character. The evolution of these actions invites an unavoidable and sometimes humorous comparison between them, and examines how their physical histories set them apart.
Regional Tour 2011
Toured by Performing Lines for Road Work.
13-14 May: Judith Wright Centre, Brisbane.
24 May: Lismore City Hall, Lismore.
27 May: Empire Theatre, Toowoomba.
30 May: Jetty Memorial Theatre, Coffs Harbour.
1-2 June: Civic Theatre, Newcastle.
Mildura Roadworks - Performing Lines Australian Tour 2011
Mildura Wentworth Arts Festival
4 March: Mercy Theatre
Choreographer: Lucy Guerin in collaboration with the performers
Trained Performers: Antony Hamilton & Benjamin Hancock
Untrained Performers: Matt O’Neill & Javier Briceno (Brisbane), Liam Christian & Josh Doyle (Toowoomba, Lismore, Coffs Harbour & Newcastle)
"Two average guys whose experience with dance is limited to forced interludes with aunties at family functions are asked to perform with a pair of professional dancers. Lucy Guerin’s Untrained explores the beauty and comedy of this ensemble.
Beyond the fun of watching two flailing novices attempt to match skilled professionals, Untrained also offers audiences a thoughtful exploration of the connection between mind, body and spirit. Guerin’s work reveals the inseparable links between our internal and external selves, showing that who we are is revealed not only by what we say and how we say it, but also in how we move.
Untrained shows that our identity defines how we fill the space in which we exist. And while training can refine those movements, it can’t remove those idiosyncrasies – revealed in the subtleties of every hop, skip and thump – that make us who we are.
Guerin uses a number of devices to unpack each performer. Through personal reflections, which include raw family histories, we begin to understand the past that has moulded these men. By sharing their opinions of the project, and each other, we witness the way they relate in a group and compare themselves to their peers. Improvising and choreographing for each other, we really get to know these men as individuals. From imitating rats drowning in molasses to playing Twister, the audience is exposed to four unique individuals.
Meet Antony, succinct in movement and stature, whose seasoned street dance style brings a precision and rhythm to the piece, reflecting his straightforward, hardworking personality.
Then there’s young Benjamin. His graceful fluidity is a true pleasure to watch, and as he speaks, the audience becomes acquainted with a sensitive kid, whose vulnerability brings an ethereal beauty to his performance.
Then we have our untrained heroes. It’s easy to see why Guerin handpicked these guys from 40 men who flocked to the audition. Matt, the writer, who describes his physique as ‘bear-like’, is as nimble as a triceratops. Matt uses big words, makes big thuds, and wins hearts with his self-depreciating humour.
Finally, we meet accounting student Javier, charismatic, relaxed and just a little bit talented. While pirouettes might be far removed from his everyday activities, the ease with which Javier seems to pick up some of the steps (not all, mind you) reflects the ease with which he seems to look at life.
A world-renowned choreographer, Guerin began Untrained as a workshop to explore choreographing for non-dancers before the project evolved into an innovative dance theatre piece. Embarking on an Australian tour, Untrained will take on a new local cast at each new venue. A thinking person’s So You Think You Can Dance?, this production is not to be missed.