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Flash Review 1, 3-23: In the 'Aether'
Guerin Mixes, with Mixed Results

By Chloe Smethurst
Copyright 2005 Chloe Smethurst

MELBOURNE -- Lucy Guerin's new "Aether," seen March 15, is divided into two sections. The first is a multimedia exploration into modern forms of communication, while the second focuses on human interaction. The North Melbourne Town Hall provides the audience with an intimate view of the action, and is well utilized by set designer Keith Tucker.

Collaborating with motion graphic designer Michaela French, Guerin has developed a complex opening sequence which accurately reflects the communications we're bombarded with every day. The five dancers are employed as emotionless bytes of information, buzzing about the stage, randomly connecting and disconnecting. They are gradually overwhelmed by French's fabulous visual concoction, an animated tableau of formulas, rehearsal notes, images, digits and other miscellaneous information.

While Guerin works with very inorganic concepts, the overall effect of this section resembles the internal workings of a sophisticated organism -- perhaps how the Internet might look if you could encapsulate its millions of connections into one image.

Guerin's movement language here combines small, freakish mannerisms with larger, spiraling rotations in the joints. Her trademark, ballet-like stiffness of the spine and knees can be seen in some of the travelling phrases, but the majority of the action is comprised of compulsive twitches and inhuman gestures.

The opening image of Kirstie McCracken sitting upright as her disembodied, creepy, scrambling fingers explore her body perfectly sets the scene. McCracken's hands occasionally pause, as though to extract something from the rest of her, and then scuttle, Matrix-like, on to the next juncture.

The score, created by Gerald Mair, is also heavily based on the theme of communications. Including modem blips, tapping keys, screeching faxes and distorted conversations, it is atmospheric without being didactic.

The only fault with this section is that it is impossible to absorb all of the overlapping elements in one sitting, which was no doubt one of the choreographer's aims.

The second half of the performance is very different, set at a much slower pace. Stripping away the complex choreography and digital animation, Guerin instead focuses on a series of physical theater-type duets with non-lingual mutterings and sound-effects created by the dancers, looking at the ways we relate to and interact with each other.

One of the main features of this part is an extended physical conversation between Byron Perry and Antony Hamilton, two of the most respected male contemporary dancers in Australia. Their bizarre facial expressions, gestures and claymation-like utterings are humorous, but not particularly sophisticated or innovative.

There are some excellent moments, mainly due to the excellent performance skills of the dancers, but the majority of this section was overly drawn out and poorly directed, looking a bit too much like a drama-class exercise.

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