Split (Lucy Guerin Inc, Dance Massive) – Arts House
Melanie Lane and Lilian Steiner
As the lights dim, UK composer Scanner’s musical score fades in, like a pulsing heartbeat or the distant throb of techno while you’re trying to get some sleep in your tent – with earplugs inserted – at 5am at a festival. Dancers Melanie Lane (wearing a flowing frock) and Lilian Steiner (nude) are illuminated on stage (although it takes a while for their contrasting states of dress to become apparent). They dance in perfect unison – even breathing as one – and we can imagine the countless hours spent rehearsing in front of a mirror under Lucy Guerin’s expert direction. Movement varies from minute gestures to sweeping, travelling phrases and turn sequences. Both dancers demonstrate extraordinary body control and the spacing between them is perfectly maintained.
The dance space is defined by white tape, which the dancers dissect at regular intervals throughout by laying down more strips of white tape to further diminish dimensions and hence separate Split into scenes. A sense of conflict between Lane and Steiner becomes more pronounced each time their performance space is reduced, and eventually the pair dance with each other or as a reaction to the other – finding their own pathways in the increasingly limited space available. Paul Lim’s lighting design further accentuates their impending claustrophobia and focuses our gaze. Are the dancers depicting dual consciousness/split personalities? There’s definitely violent struggle and some menacing, invasive moments during which one dancer appears to subdue and even pick at or feed on her prey. The majority of this piece must have been created on these dancers’ bodies in the studio through patient experimentation.
A general sense of unease washes over the audience as we wonder how much smaller and more contained the stage dimensions will become. And Scanner’s score pounds on, unsettling also. Both dancers grapple for control before one acquiesces, but their roles shift throughout and we’re held in a continual state of suspense. The technical virtuosity on display here is matched by the dancers’ arresting performances; Lane and Steiner totally surrender to inhabit this strange world of Guerin’s imagining. Her choreography is always fearless, and this fascinating work is both beautiful and stark. Split showcases everything that’s exciting about dance as an art form.
Originally posted on 17th March by The Music: