Compression. Suspension. Torsion. Failure. The language of dance finds surprising echoes in the language of engineering.
This weekend, Lucy Guerin Inc., one of Australia’s premier young dance companies, will present Structure and Sadness, an award-winning, evening-length work inspired by the 1970 collapse of Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge. Less a factual narrative than a visceral response, the piece explores both the heart-rending fragility of the human body and the stubborn resiliency of the human spirit.
Performances — which will launch the 2011-12 Edison Ovations Series — will take place at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Tickets are $35, or $30 seniors, $25 for Washington University faculty and staff and $20 for students and children.
Tickets are available at the Edison Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
For more information, call (314) 935-6543, e-mail email@example.com or visit edison.wustl.edu.
Lucy Guerin Inc. in Structure and Sadness. Photo by Jeff-Busby. Download hires image.
Structure and Sadness
Completed in 1978, the Westgate Bridge is the third longest in Australia, spanning the Yarra River just north of the Port of Melbourne and connecting the city to its western suburbs.
But on Oct. 15, 1970 — two years into construction — a 2,000-ton section suddenly collapsed. The resulting explosion of gas, concrete and twisted metal was reportedly visible 20 kilometers away. Thirty-five workers were killed. Another 18 were seriously injured.
In Structure and Sadness, Guerin offers both a moving tribute to those who lost their lives and a stirring meditation on the idea of structural vulnerability, contrasting our collective faith in the built environment with the unimaginable grief and chaos unleashed by its failure.
“The dancers and I spent a lot of time finding a movement vocabulary for this work,” Guerin writes in an essay about her creative process. “After a while it became clear that the physical forces acting on the bridge and the emotional impact on those involved … had a similar movement vocabulary.
“The buckling of steel when applied to the human body as a movement idea creates a sense of emotional collapse,” Guerin writes. “So it was the two interpretations of collapse — structural and emotional, one a result of the other — that became the central themes of the work.”
The evening begins with a sudden jolt, as a large wooden panel crashes to the floor. Against a backdrop of neon lights, six dancers proceed to construct an elaborate, life-sized “house of cards” from various scraps of wood. Yet as the structure rises ever higher, it begins to teeter on the verge of collapse — a resonant metaphor for the precarious architecture of our own lives.
“Guerin has a unique capacity to illuminate deep human emotions through abstract choreography,” notes The Age, Melbourne’s daily newspaper.
The Sydney Morning Herald calls Structures and Sadness “An emotional high,” adding that, “anyone who thinks dance is a tulle-wrapped fairytale will consider this a discovery, an unexpectedly beautiful dance piece.”
Lucy Guerin Inc.
Born in Adelaide, Australia, Guerin graduated from the Centre for Performing Arts in 1982 and danced with the companies of Russell Dumas and Nanette Hassall before moving to New York in 1989. There, she danced with Tere O’Connor Dance, the Bebe Miller Company and Sara Rudner and also began choreographing as an independent artist. In 1996, she returned to Australia, establishing Lucy Guerin Inc. in Melbourne in 2002.
In the years since, Lucy Guerin Inc. has toured France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Singapore, Korea, Shanghai, Canada and throughout the United States. Her works have been commissioned by numerous companies and festivals, including Chunky Move, Ros Warby, Woo Co (Denmark), Ricochet (UK), The Berlin Literature Festival (with poet Michael Lenz), JCDN/Hirano (Japan), Dance Works Rotterdam and Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project (USA).
In 2000, Guerin was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award for achievement by an individual. Other awards include the Prix d’auteur from the Rencontres Choregraphiques Internationales de Bagnolet in France, a 1994 New York Foundation for the Arts Choreographic Fellowship and a 1997 New York Dance and Performance Award (a “Bessie”) for her piece Two Lies.
In 2007, Structure and Sadness won an Australian Green Room award for Best Choreography, a Helpmann Award for Best Dance Work and an Australian Dance Award for Best Performance by a Company.
Founded in 1973, the Edison Ovations Series serves both Washington University and the St. Louis community by providing the highest caliber national and international artists in music, dance and theater, performing new works as well as innovative interpretations of classical material not otherwise seen in St. Louis.
Edison programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and private contributors. The Ovations season is supported by The Mid-America Arts Alliance with generous underwriting by the National Endowment for the Arts and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
WHO: Lucy Guerin Inc.
WHAT: Structure and Sadness
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1
WHERE: Edison Theatre, Washington University, Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
TICKETS: $35; $30 for seniors, $25 for WUSTL faculty and staff; $20 for students and children. Available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets
SPONSOR: Edison Ovations Series
INFORMATION: (314) 935-6543 or edisontheatre.wustl.edu