With Australian Choreographer Lucy Guerin on iPhones and Dance

The opening of the 26th TanecPraha Festival belonged, quite provokingly, to the performance titled Conversation Piece by choreographer Lucy Guerin. She created this piece for her company Lucy Guerin Inc in collaboration with the Belvoir Company. It’s surely the first time you are in Prague where we don’t meet many Australian choreographers – do you often travel to Europe? Lately, we’ve been rather performing in the States, but from time to time we travel to Europe. I’m in Prague for the first time in my life and I’m amazed after just one day here. Unfortunately, during the company’s stay I’ll have to leave shortly for London where I’m creating the choreography for the play Médeiain the National Theatre. So I already feel envious because my colleagues have more time to enjoy Prague. And after Prague and Pilsen we are heading to Glasgow to perform our piece and then travelling to Paris in autumn. Could you briefly present your company and the local dance scene? To be honest, we don’t know much about Australian dance here. Melbourne is quite a big city, so besides the ballet company, there are about four contemporary dance companies, including mine, and then many independent groups. I say “my” company, but all dancers are hired for individual projects, they are not employed by the company, for each performance I choose a new team. But under the name of the company we not only organise performances but also workshops, which we invite international teachers to, artistic residencies for dancers and choreographers, we also provide premises for collaboration etc. So you can say that, unlike some other independent groups, your company is professional, the dancers get regular salary… where do the contemporary dance  subsidies in Australia come from? Of course, dancers would always deserve more than they get, that’s for sure, but yes, they’re paid properly for their work. But most importantly, we have our own studio where we can work or collaborate on other projects, which is great. We are supported by the Australian government and the Council, the municipality of Melbourne and several foundations. I myself choreograph pieces for other companies, too, both in Australia and abroad. Where do you recruit the dancers for your projects? Are they all Australian? In Australia, we have several university dance colleges where dancers usually come from, some of them from New Zealand, too. Peopleseldom arrive from the other continents just to dance in Australia, this happens very rarely. In your choreography, that we can see tonight, you use three dancers but also actors. What was the reason for integrating them into the piece? The inspiration from the Belvoir Theatre’s specification – they askedme to realize a workshop for both dancers and actors, for mutual enrichment. At the beginning,I really had no idea what the resultwould be. The main theme was communication, I was interested in how dancers and actors communicate with the world and how they communicate with each other. When the participants were working on various tasks, I gradually realised the presence of our inseparables parts – iPhones – in the studio. We use them for playing music, showing pictures, making videos and so on. And from this idea, the concept of the performance was created. The piece deals with communication and separation well represented by mobile phones – the ratio of real and virtual communication at the same time – when we hold to our tech toys so much that we lose contact with the reality. What is the role of iPhones in the performance then? They have various roles – we use them for recording and playing music, making videos, taking pictures etc. The performance starts with an innocent conversationthat is improvised and different every night. The dancers record some fragments of this conversation on their phones and give them to the actors who further develop the story – sometimes to unexpected dimensions. Everybody reacts differently to the text and that’s why every performance is distinct and we never know what connection between text and movement might arise. And thus every performance can have a different message. And people who don’t speak English? They can’t have fun? Actually, have you ever performed in a non-English speaking country? No, we haven’t, it’s the first time today. But I don’t think it is such an obstacle. The fragment of the dialogue is repeated so frequently during the piece that everybody with at least basic knowledge of English is able to catch some words at the end. And if not, there are other things to look at and I believe that audience can enjoy the choreography, its energy and dynamism without even understanding a single word. They will surely understand how iPhones influence today’s communication. So you are sponsored by Apple? Not yet, unfortunately. But that’s right, I sometimes feel like promoting iPhones, maybe I should try. But it’s probably too late, when people have already bought them. However, we use some special apps, many technical devices……I’m sure you can imagine the problem of full charging all six devices before the performance! Translation: Tereza Cigánková

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October 2019

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