For her latest work, Make Your Own World, choreographer Lucy Guerin has cast some of Melbourne’s most talented independent dancers. It’s an impressive roster of highly articulate and intuitively rhythmic movers who each contribute something singular and personal. Through clever choreographic structures, Guerin has harnessed the individuality of these dancers to produce a richly textured work that resists theatricality in favour of intricate composition.

Make Your Own WorldMake Your Own World. Photograph © Pippa Samaya

At its most simple, the work showcases the artistic personalities of six intelligent dancers – Tra Mi Dinh, Benjamin Hancock, Rebecca Jensen, Alisdair Macindoe, Jessie Oshodi and Lilian Steiner. The choreography moves in and out of tightly edited improvisational scores, allowing us to see the dancers’ habitual movement erupting from cleanly executed passages of set material. The change is sometimes subtle but other times unpredictable, creating tension between the formal and informal structures at play.

The set choreography is highly articulate, gestural and fast, almost all of it slickly executed by the ensemble. Guerin seems to be playing with scale. Very small repetitive movements, like the gentle tapping of toes on demi-pointe or seductive swivelling of hips, are intercut with virtuosic leaps or running. Again, these shifts are often abrupt; fracturing and reorganising the bodily arrangements on stage.

More than once these interruptions are accompanied by loud, obvious choices in Daniel Jenatsch’s sound composition. While these few instances help build drama, for much of the work, the music does little to support the dancing. Rather, Guerin’s choreography carries its own internal rhythmic design that sits underneath the sound, and her dancers do well to maintain their own timing.

Jenatsch’s composition does, however, establish the mood of the piece. The sound is ominous and brooding, only occasionally indulging in segments of up-tempo drumlines. For the most part, samples of puttering engines, deep bubbles and rustling leaves form soundscapes that hint at potential ‘worlds’ the dancers may occupy.

Make Your Own WorldMake Your Own World. Photograph © Pippa Samaya

These allusions are also explored more literally in the choreography. At various points, the dancers enact scenes involving riot police and protestors, rebels fighting a guerrilla war and a football match. Each of these environments seem to be defined by acute power structures, where sides are drawn and the individual is subsumed into the group. While these moments make thematical sense, they sit quite clunkily alongside the more abstract movement sequences and feel overly representational.

Costume designer Andrew Treloar adds a wonderfully futuristic quality to the work, dressing the dancers in neon jumpsuits and metallic Lycra. A minimalist lighting design by Paul Lim ensures the costumes glow in the otherwise black space, utilising high-hanging fluorescents and front light to cast enormous shadows.

Costumes are changed (and changed again) as the work progresses towards its climax. The dancers, who begun as six individuals carving their identity from improvised movement, ultimately find themselves in perfect unison, enslaved to the fluctuating tempo of the soundtrack. It could be a trite moment, but Guerin’s insistence on sticking with this image almost until the point of absurdity saves it from becoming clichéd.

Indeed, Guerin’s experience and intuition are evident all throughout Make Your Own World. In an unusually untheatrical work, she has created a densely layered piece that finds dramatic tension in its compositional structure and exacting movement vocabulary. Embodying this world are the six highly skilled dancers who impress with their ability to find commonality as easily as their own idiosyncrasies.

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