Adelaide Festival. AC Arts Main Theatre. 2 - 5 Mar, 2018

Split is a tour de force of dance. The opening night audience was one that clearly appreciated and understood dance. Split opened to a full house, and as seems to be fashionable, started eight minutes late.

Split opens in dim lighting using a stark black rectangle, outlined in white masking tape. The lighting by Paul Lim and accompanying music by Scanner and Robin Fox - rhythmic, almost heartbeat-like drumming - are also stars of this show. The lighting is stark and is often used to herald changes in the performers’ relationship as their space and intertwined destiny become one.

The choreographer, Adelaide born and Helpmann Award winner Lucy Guerin graduated from the Centre for Performing Arts, and it is significant that it is here that she showcases this challenging and inspiring piece of work.

The inspiration for Split came from a desire to get into the studio with just two dancers where she could focus on their closeness and embrace the pure elements of choreography. This piece certainly does that.

The show opens with two dancers in dim light, moving in perfect synchrony. They are flawlessly together, compelling, using and filling the whole space.

One dancer is simply clothed. The other is naked. Both ceaselessly move together.

Guerin describes her commitment to challenging the physical ideals that women are expected to conform to. In this piece, what can be observed are two female bodies, featuring the incredible beauty of the musculature of the human form, working through an almost gymnastic piece of work that uses every part of their bodies to the end of their strands of hair. The nakedness which is courageous, becomes irrelevant. What is exciting is the opportunity to watch the bodies at work, skilful and precise as tools for the story.

The concept of the split is cleverly developed by both the dancers, as well as the use of the space, and it would be a “spoiler” to divulge how this is done. Suffice to say, the split develops into two powerful, individual dance performances featuring battle, separation, victory and defeat.

In this dance piece, as the space becomes more and more limited it is compelling how each remains individual, but irrevocably connected.

Lilian Steiner and Melanie Laneare the dancers. Both are well known choreographers and dancers who work both in Australia and internationally. Because of this, it is clear that they are disciplined, highly skilled, intuitive and agile performers who have come together in a way that shows collaboration with deep understanding of performance. Their work is focussed, playful at times and relentlessly intense. Their energy is sustained and miraculously, never seems to wane. They are performers in peak physical condition. Both are a joy to watch, never still, always engaged and telling the story.

Split is not just a piece for dance fans. It is a compelling piece of work that shows us the skill and beauty of the human body joyfully together, reconciled, in shame, shock and in conflict.

Jude Hines

Photographer: Gregory Lorenzutti

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