IMPRESSIONS: Lucy Guerin's "UNTRAINED"
IMPRESSIONS: Lucy Guerin Inc
Concept/Direction: Lucy Guerin
Performers: Michael Dunbar, Alisdair Macindoe, Ross McCormack, Jake Shackleton
At Brooklyn Academy of Music, BAM Fisher
December 1, 2012
December 7th, 2012
Cory Nakasue for The Dance Enthusiast
Four adult men, two of them trained dancers, two of them untrained, present themselves for examination on a petri dish of a square, center stage at BAM Fisher. A series of “establishing shots” follow as the men offer up articles of their identity—particular pieces of identity and history that cannot be found in the program notes.
Approaching the walking, talking human body as hard drive, and mining it for movement data, Lucy Guerin makes the compelling argument that we are our movement while simultaneously scratching a mildly perverse "reality" itch. What begins as a dispassionate study as each performer delivers a movement sample (a head turn, a jete, a one legged balance), evolves into evermore-complex pieces of choreography and improvisations that reveal character. Exhibit A: An intricate and entertaining game of follow-the-leader led by an untrained and trained dancer demonstrates that the only real difference between the two is the amount of control they have over their movements. It must be noted that the untrained dancers, Michael Dunbar and Jake Shackleton, have developed a keen sense of comedic timing and have learned to play their “out of control” moments for laughs.
|Ross McCormack, Jake Shackleton, Michael Dunbar, Alisdair Macindoe in Untrained; Concept and Direction Lucy Guerin; Photography Julieta Cervantes
The issue of control is a small but important player in this work that could have been explored more. It’s the untrained’s lack thereof that dissolves the barriers between audience and performer, and allows the spectator to consider their own body. The trained dancers, Alisdair Macindoe and Ross McCormack speak about their bodies, and themselves in an attempt to create the same effect, but alas, we are too dazzled by their skill. As in life, we respond to vulnerability.
The confessionals that follow walk the edge of emotional contrivance, but are still effective. Through a series of videos, monologues, and songs the performers attempt to flesh out their characters. They share stories about their relationships with their fathers, insecurities about their bodies, and engrossing peeks into their fantasy lives and odd predilections. The ironic result is distancing, especially when part of Guerin’s argument is that the body IS a confessional.
The scientific presentation of Untrained, no matter how silly or personal the content, is what keeps it from veering into schmaltzy territory. Complete with “control group” sections that act as palate cleansers—neutralizers used to level the playing field in between the more highly choreographed sections, Guerin deftly shifts her inquiry from finding difference between the trained and untrained body to finding a brave new way to claim ownership of our stories and ourselves.
Check out Christine Jowers' article on The Dance Enthusiast here