Dance Massive: Conversation Piece

Conversation Piece is the only show in the Dance Massive festival that I’ve managed to see and it left me wanting to talk and rave and see it again.

Conversation Piece
Conversation Piece

Lucy Guerin’s work makes me understand contemporary dance; her choreography has a visceral effect that goes beyond the physical, lets me know what she and her dancers were thinking and leaves me cursing that words can be a useless form of expression.  And this is so much more than dance. To say it’s part-impro, part-dance, past-performance doesn’t do justice to any form as it becomes something original and is created from a premise that you will relate to if you read internet reviews.

If you’re reading this on your phone, book your ticket NOW. It’s on until the weekend.

Rarely do I sit in a theatre and have no idea what’s going to happen next. Conversation Piece had me for every moment because I had no idea what is was going to do. Developed with Belvoir and first performed last year (Melbourne has two new cast members), it’s had time to develop, but still feels fresh and new.

Three performers (dancers) walk onto the stage and talk, while recording themselves on a pair of iPhones. With no rehearsal, topic or brief, each performance is unique and a second visit is almost mandatory. And if you see someone laughing as they drink granulated ginger tea or a Ural sachet, you’ll know they were at the Melbourne opening night.

Despite being very public, the initial conversation feels as awkwardly delightful as overhearing a group of strangers chatting. Unlike dialogue, it sounds like people talking with interruptions, unfinished thoughts, genuine laughs and the illogical logic that few writers master but we all understand.

At eight minutes, three new performers (actors) come onto the stage, take an iPhone from the talkers, put in earphones and repeat the conversation as they hear it. So a conversation about wasabi, parenting and UTIs becomes the soundtrack to the rest of the performance and is re-visited in the most unexpected forms.

From conversations with themselves to competitions between performers and their craft, it becomes much more than an exercise in form as it confronts our so-quickly-adapted-to smartphone culture. I’ve only had one for 18-months and I don’t take books on the train anymore, I tweet in intervals and let people know if I’m going to a show via Facey. We stare at tiny screens instead of interacting with our friends or strangers. (Please look up from your screen and smile at someone nearby; even if it’s just yourself.)

Don’t think for a moment that this premise of isolation makes boring theatre because we’re watching what the isolated do – and I can say that at the end of this show, there wasn’t the usual rush to check phones in the foyer.

Throw in a cast who I can’t say enough good about (Megan Holloway, Stephanie Lake, Alisdair Macindow, Byron Perry, Katherine Tonkin, Matthew Whittet) and this is dance that springs over any limitations or fears of dance being a world away from theatre.

If you haven’t been to much or any of Dance Massive, cancel your weekend plans and get to the Meat Market to see what they are going to talk about.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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