Human Interest Story – Belvoir – Sydney

Admittedly, I haven’t been to many contemporary dance works in my twenty-four years. However, I couldn’t help feeling I saw a very excellent piece of contemporary dance in Human Interest Story.

Human Interest Story

Venue: Belvoir Street Theatre
Choreographer Lucy Guerin

Review Date: Saturday, 3 September 2011 

Admittedly, I haven’t been to many contemporary dance works in my twenty-four years. However, I couldn’t help feeling I saw a very excellent piece of contemporary dance in Human Interest Story. I felt it was everything the modern art form should be: dark, humorous, creative, grotesque, entertaining and poignant. The six performers (Stephanie Lake, Alisdair MacIndoe, Talitha Maslin, Harriet Ritchie, James Shannon, Jessica Wong) displayed a mastery of body movement and rhythm that was truly breathtaking. 

The entire work was only a brisk hour long but explored in a myriad of abstract and inventive ways news media and people’s responses to it. Lucy Guerin writes in her choreographer’s notes how she tried to “synthesise the many relationships between the news and our experience” and how “complex” these relationships can be. I don’t know how successful Guerin was in clearing up those relations for the audience, or if she even set out to try, but she certainly left me with some pretty powerful images.

A very excellent piece of contemporary dance…”

One such image was the performer whose spandex was stuffed and stretched with bunched up newspaper to look like a demented and deformed beast. Another, more light-hearted, moment was when beloved SBS news anchor, Anton Enus, was shown on screen presenting incredibly mundane news in the style of a typical news broadcast. An interesting use of staging involved the use of an actual army tank lurking in the half-light on the side of stage throughout the entire performance. It was never used, but its monstrous shadow in the corner was ever present—perhaps alluding to the idea that the real news is happening outside the familiar, filtered media arena.

I thought the first half was richer with ideas and playfulness, while the second half descended into a more ritualised repetition of familiar news tropes and dance movements. Obviously contemporary dance isn’t for everyone, I asked a fellow theatregoer on the way out what she thought and she briskly replied, “Well, it’s an early night.” It left a slightly deeper impression on me, revealing to this contemporary dance going novice how movement and choreography can explore as deep an issue and idea as any spoken drama. 

4 stars

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