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The Age Split review: Tension and harmony apposed in masterful double act

Jordan Beth Vincent

DANCE
SPLIT ★★★★½
Lucy Guerin Inc.
Arts House, North Melbourne
Until March 26

A work like choreographer Lucy Guerin’s Split is open enough to be read in many ways.

There are the structures, laid out clearly and simply: comprised of four chapters, each takes half the length of time as the previous one.

There are, at the end, four sections of stage space marked out by the dancers with white tape. The act of laying the tape indicates the close of one chapter and the opening of the next, but it also serves to create a new space that is half the size of the one before it.

As the landscape shrinks, the tension grows. Teeming with rage and passion, movement and complex relationships, this structure only highlights the messiness and uncomfortableness inherent in the work.

In the end, there is barely enough room for the dancers to stand together without crossing the lines.

For much of the work, dancers Melanie Lane and Lilian Steiner perform in unison. The movement is wide-ranging and often surprising, shifting from tiny and detailed gestures to full sweeps of the body.

Repetition is used to demonstrate the accumulation of ideas, and there is a sense in that the movement has been rigorously exploited for possibilities – both to heighten the tension in the work and to disarm it.

At some moments, Lane and Steiner seem to be two halves of the same person; at other times, notions of power struggle and aggression are borne out in full-body grapplings – such as when Lane attempts to twist Steiner’s arm off, or Steiner forces Lane into submission on the floor.

This is not necessarily an easy relationship, but rather one that is complex and nuanced – and made perhaps more striking by the decision to present only one half of the cast clothed.

The female, nude body is not presented sentimentally or even necessarily sexualised, but rather as a choice that elevates the notion of power and negotiation, and what it means to be truly vulnerable.

With simple but effective lighting by Paul Lim and a soundscore by British composer Scanner that builds a steady but unobtrusive rhythm, Split is masterfully performed.

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