Photos – Sarah Walker
Motion Picture by choreographer Lucy Guerin, is a film in dance, a dance to a film, a dance in response to a film. The movie is DOA, made in 1950, the quintessential noir film with its shifting light, shadows and chiaroscuro effects, and a hapless protagonist played by Edmond O’Brien. The colour scheme of the set and costumes of Motion Picture is black, grey and white to match. The film is projected behind the audience and the dancers present their own versions of the gestures on sceen as well as synching to the dialogue, conceits which are often very funny and always zinging with creativity. A screen behind the dancers is striated with the lines and blotches of old celluloid.
A dissection of all the elements of the movie has been painstakingly undertaken to create this work, and the performance allows for a variety of engagements on the part of the dancers. Their responses shift in tone and style. Conceptually speaking Motion Picture is a lot of fun and lovely to watch, with lots of humour, intentional and incidental. It’s wonderful in parts and a beautiful ensemble work. The movements and gestures and tableaux the dancers make of themselves are vigorous and exquisite, at times intense and surprising. You get a lovely ‘nightclub scene’ with early jive and bop rhythms coming from a musical interlude in the film and some killer tenor sax playing. (This scene in the film, incidentally, is on one of the earliest to show on screen the emerging Beat subculture.) Towards the end of Motion Picture the lighting effects mean the dancers become immersed in graininess, as though they are right in the film, and the entire piece has morphed into a creature in its own right, no longer adhering to the actions on screen. But by this stage I’d stopped caring and my bum was numb– it’s fabulous, it really is, but it’s too long and, despite its shifts of tone, starts to feel gimmicky.
Motion Picture is possibly inherently distancing given that you’re not fully with the dancers in terms of story. You’re at a remove from the movie as well, and the fact of it means you’re disengaged with the performance in front of you. But don't take my word on this, go and see for yourself.
Arts House and Lucy Guerin Inc present
Lucy Guerin Inc
Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall
Dates: 17 – 22 March 2015
Tickets: $30 – $15
Bookings: (03) 9322 3713
Part of the 2015 Dance Massive