Premiered at North Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne, 15 March 2005.
Choreographer Lucy Guerin and motion graphic designer Michaela French were looking out a window onto Melbourne’s cityscape when the original idea for Aether came to them. “I’ve got a view of Melbourne… and Michaela and I were wondering what it would look like if all the lines of communication were visible”, stated Lucy Guerin (Herald Sun, 2005).
Premiering in March 2005, Aether is a full-length dance work that explores the complexities of human communication in the digital age. Incorporating sound, movement and projection, the performance grapples with questions about human identity, information overload and self-expression. After living in bustling New York for seven years, Lucy was interested in “different modes of communication” – for example, neon billboards, radio, newspaper, and email – and “the problem of how to relate and how to connect with fellow humans” (Herald Sun, 2005).
Broken into two distinct sections, Aether begins by introducing five dancers in a dense multimedia landscape. Torn newspapers are scattered on the floor, dim lighting flickers, an atmospheric soundtrack hums and beeps and a large background screen illuminates circuit boards, spooling data and coloured text. On stage the five dancers represent living particles, their movements jittery, angled and robotic. Like mechanical toy dolls they push towards and apart from each other in a flurry of chaotic movement. “The unthinkable complexity of this first section of Aether is designed to reflect the datascapes of daily life, the information overload, impossible all to take in”, wrote dance critic Bree Hadley (Brolga, 2007).
The second part of the performance is ushered in by a sudden change in tempo. The projector screen is withdrawn, the soundtrack becomes softer and newspaper is removed from the stage. “Think of it as a slow clearance of communication debris from your life,” states a voiceover by one of the dancers. More human in their appearance, the dancers begin to perform short duets and group sections that consist of garbled voices, awkward interactions and self-referential commentary on dance as a communication medium. This second part of Aether explores the difficulty we still experience in understanding each other in spite of the multitude of communication formats available to us. “All this only begins to suggest the remarkable density of Aether, its layering of rich and provocative ideas and contradictions within a busy, visually dynamic and formally innovative structure,” wrote critic John Bailey (Real Time, 2005).
Following its first season in Australia, Aether took out a Green Room Award for Best Ensemble.
Premiere – 14-27 March, 2005: North Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne.
18 October, 2007: Singapore Da:ns Festival, Singapore.
3 November, 2007: Australia Festival, Pittsburgh.
28 November- 1 December, 2007: Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne.
23 -26 January 2008: Sydney Festival as part of Movers and Shakers series, Sydney.
“Guerin and the dancers reach into startling new territory.”
Lee Christofis, The Australian, 2005.
Images: Rachelle Roberts