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When it premiered as part of the Arts House program at the 2017 Dance Massive festival, Lucy Guerin’s Split quickly became the must-see work audiences were raving about.

It has been touring almost constantly ever since. More than 70 performances have already been presented around the world, and the choreographer thinks that might be more runs than any of her previous works. She’s not entirely sure why. “I would never have expected it. I felt like it was a fairly abstract work and often audiences struggle with that.”

Split might not be a literal work but it is one with rules and boundaries, and unfolds with the beauty of an elegant equation. Much of the pleasure it affords arises at the intersection of surprise and inevitability.

“I think there is something about the readability of the structure and the way that the space is divided each time, that people feel like there’s an outline for it. They feel quite secure with it, somehow. They feel that they know where it’s going, not in an emotional sense or in the narrative of it, but just structurally and spatially.”

The structure of Split wasn’t there from the outset. Guerin’s is a process-driven practice, never beholden to an overarching premise, and the taut form of Split was a way of organising the volumes of work that was left on the rehearsal room floor.

“We were dancing around inside big cellophane bags at one stage and learning cartoon movements off YouTube. There were a lot of things that really didn’t find their way into the work. But all the while I was building these different phrases based on the idea of looping. That really became the first section of the work. And then I had these other more abstract sections that were made through tasks. We had also been working on this kind of hyperdramatised movement, amongst a lot of other things. There was a certain moment when I had all these bits and was wondering what I was going to do with them.”

That was when the simple genius of dividing and sub-dividing the stage with tape came to Guerin. “I knew that it would have a slightly dramatic form because of the decreasing time and space. It would give it some sense of urgency and tension. And so I started arranging everything into that structure.”

 

Image of original cast by – Gregory Lorenzutti