Reviewing the Arts Student Blogger Review - Harriet Fisk

24 Sep 2018

Split: Holding a Mirror up to its Audience by Harriet Fisk

Reviewing the Arts program allows students to explore a variety of writing modes in arts journalism, including interviews, previews and reviews. This article is about Lucy Guerin’s Split is a journey tracing a friction, a divide and a resolution by UNSW student Harriet Fisk

Lucy Guerin’s Split is a journey tracing a friction, a divide and a resolution.

Intense drums guide your heartbeat to a familiar feeling. Impending stress, time shortening, space decreasing. Two dancers appear onstage. One naked, one clothed, they appear as two halves of one entity moving with precision and synchronicity around the room. Staccato movements are quickly answered with long swinging limbs, the swirling of arms with sharp quick twitches, the use of knuckles on the floor and slaps on thighs.

Split embraces a form of movement that mirrors our modern world. No longer is dance a distant performance. It’s something the audience is invited to experience through their own relation to personal conflict. Guerin’s dualistic choreography is expressed fluently by Melanie Lane and Lilian Steiner, who effortlessly mirror each other and the audience. Away from technology and away from distraction, Split forces you to focus on yourself and the internal conflicts you supress and refuse to battle every day. The dancers project a struggle between your free mind and your socially anxious instincts by physically ‘battling’ one another. By translating this struggle into a physical form, the performance grabs you at your core, human, self.

With a refreshingly small cast, it is admirable how much tension and anticipation these women have created through their connection with one another, both mentally and physically. An intensity is created by the small black arena outlined with white tape, a space completely controlled by the dancers themselves as they draw each other into ever smaller spaces. The swift switch from synchronicity to separation feeds the conflict between mind and heart, and the confusion between the depiction of story and relationship. The unpredictability of movements mean that the audience can only rely on two things: the strong pounding of the drums, and the inevitability of the floor space becoming smaller and smaller.

Each new segment brings a change of light, forcing you to notice different elements of the struggle between the two bodies. Despite the use of breaks to change the shape of the performance space, snapping in and out of the intensely emotional work so abruptly did stunt the experience somewhat. That being said, the break after each section of dance ensured each movement of the work had an impact, and the performance maintained my full attention when the dancers threw themselves back into motion.

The effect of the nudity was surprising. After an initial impulse to giggle at seeing a woman baring all to complete strangers, by the end of the dramatic and touching performance I felt the urge to do exactly the same thing. I felt liberated after merely watching her. Mesmerized, I had to force myself to take my eyes off her body. Everything was visible – her muscles, her movements, her emotions. Every single start and twitch seized me as I jolted in anticipation. I felt drained as I left the theatre. It was the same feeling you get after talking cathartically to a close friend.

Only by uniting with yourself may you be rid of negativity – this was one message I took from this intense experience. After witnessing the extremity of your own emotions without leaving your seat,

if your opinion on this piece is not split, then your emotions just might me.

Split by Lucy Guerin Inc. was performed at the Sydney Opera House, Aug 8 – 12.