Australian Dance Reviews

Lucy Guerin’s ‘One Single Action’: Activating our own storytelling capacity

Lucy Guerin's 'One Single Action'. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti.
Lucy Guerin's 'One Single Action'. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti.

Chunky Move Studios, Melbourne. 
14 June 2024.

It looks like a simple proposition. Two dancers, a plain set and an orb hung like a moon. In a single crisp diagonal of light, they move to textured electro. The classic contemporary dance scene. It could be anything, or maybe nothing; and therein lies its power. With such basic tools, whole worlds can be made.

Melbourne based choreographer Lucy Geurin has a well-earned reputation for making work that lives both within and beyond the conventional scope of the modern artform. One Single Action is no exception. You feel like you have seen it before, but not quite like this. There is a cleverness, a suppleness of concept and drama that draws you in, whilststill leaving room to move. 

Geurin may not be a big lover of narrative in dance, but the arc of One Single Action and its ‘big metaphors’ – the hammers, the glowing orb, the clear sense of before and after – give you all the tools you need to create your own rich read. 

Performers Amber McCartney and Geoffrey Watson engage in a pas de deux that could be either a fight for power or a shared struggle for liberty, revelation, et al. They are purposive, objective focused, wielding their mallets with percussive passion, like foot soldiers in a proletarian uprising. Crusaders perhaps, or dogged explorers. Or indeed the unwitting creators of an unpredictably dangerous technology. 

Tellingly, the choreography is dense and highly detailed, with intricate punctuations and broad sensual sweeps. The dancers collide, unite and contest by turns; and when they have the hammers in hand, there is an almost industrial urgency to the movement. Yet, as they trend towards the seemingly inevitable action that will change their world, Geurin nimbly sidesteps, giving us a smattering of dance samples – a phrase that seems cut from 1930s Broadway, or a Laurel & Hardy move drawn from our collective slapstick unconscious. Human trajectory is rarely linear.

However, One Single Action is a work in two clearly delineated phases. First action, then consequence. (Reap what you sow. Careful what you wish for.) As such, there is also a sonic and choreographic shift, from the electronic to the classical, the rhythmic to the melodic.

On the surface, straightforward. But in the substrata, delightfully complex and evocative. Though we might say this of almost any well executed contemporary work, Geurin once again manages to fill a familiar frame in a way that excites. Clear vision and technical discipline feed into this, but not at the cost of a willingness to play and allow. 

There is not much more we can say about One Single Action that won’t read like critic patois, partly because there is so much that we could say. What Geurin and her team achieve with this work is to activate our own storytelling capacity, our reflex for meaning. When you see a work that reminds you why you love dance (and you have a thousand takes on it), there arises a deep and quiet satisfaction. 

By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa. 

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