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Notes from Kristy: Weathering Storms and the Art of Performance

One of the artists I have been most eager to introduce to you, the Los Angeles community, is Australian choreographer Lucy Guerin and her astonishing company of dancers.

And now, after much travail thanks to the U.S. visa process and subsequent travel delays, which have required us to rearrange our presentation of her work, Lucy Guerin and all of her company are here. To perform their work for the first time in Los Angeles. We are so proud to welcome them.

Lucy has always been keenly concentrated, artistically and through her choreography, with human relationships and how we encounter and affect each other. Her newest work, “Weather,” is an analysis of the conflicts within, and desires for intimacy – which widen into a meditation on human beings as a species and our relational patterns. Particularly explored in “Weather,” are the naturally occurring forces that exist outside of the realms of human control, and our direct impact upon the elemental properties that govern the natural world order.

In the advance planning to bring this remarkable work of choreography to open our 2013-2014 season of contemporary dance, there are two particular weather events occurring now that we could not have anticipated, then. But both, in their own distinctive way offer insight into elemental and poetic forces that are explored in the conceptual and choreographic structure of this work.

The first event, is the U.S. Government ‘shut down.’ Not to dwell, but it is an undeniable display of relational impact and the kind of political weather operating at present in the U.S. One that offers remarkable difficulty in providing elegant explanation around, as we welcome our Australian friends to Los Angeles for the first time. But so too in how we approach an explanation within ourselves, as we grapple with what this current political weather means within our collective citizenry.

Perhaps this work from Australia, in crossing the Pacific to premiere in the U.S., has arrived in exactly the right moment. However robust our current head winds might be.

The second, as was reported for all Angelenos this week, is the annual onset of the Santa Ana winds themselves, a local phenomenon – due to blow in and work upon our nerve endings, on the very evening of this performance.

Guerin’s work often draws from the physical world – elemental properties and naturally occurring events – to draw parallels for exploring the ethos of human relationships, as expressively framed through the art of dance and choreography. Read more about Lucy’s approach to the creation of “Weather,” in her director’s note for the program.

We have also harnessed our local community at UCLA to explore the themes of this performance through the lens of their scientific research. I hope you are able to arrive early on Friday night and enjoy our special pre-show event The Poetry of Nature: a discussion with graduate researchers from the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Studies.

We may not be able to predict the political winds–nor the weather, nor visa delays nor the traffic patterns during the gusts from the Santa Anas – but we can predict with certainty that the arts in all of their expressive potential, mastery and refined exploration, can and do bring us into direct proximity with the possibility of being astonished and enlivened by the human imagination.

Follow Kristy Edmunds on Instagram @kedmunds

From Lucy Guerin: On ‘Weather’

Editor’s Note: Lucy Guerin’s program note about “Weather” was so insightful, I wanted to give it a pulpit here and give everyone the chance to crawl deep inside the philosophy of this important work well before they arrive at the theater. We have weathered some challenges to get Lucy and her company here and we are extremely proud and excited for the performance on Friday. Enjoy.

The ideas underpinning this work stem from a desire to explore the possibilities of the human body’s connection to the elemental forces of weather. The range of this subject is limitless and universal, but for me, weather has a natural expression through dance and movement. It can be defined as the ‘state of the air’, and in this work, this invisible drama is made visible through movement and design. The cause and effect of moving air to create pressure systems informs the choreographic structure of the work, and defines the dynamics and performance of the movement material. Weather affects our mood, dress, food, activities, sports, conversations, architecture and our identity. Many works of art and literature have used the idea of a drought, a storm, the tropics or the icy outreaches of the poles to speak about the psychology of individuals, relationships or societies.

Making “Weather” has been for me a visceral immersion into choreographed movement and the body on stage. The motivation for the material has stemmed from the physical sensation and impact of the elements on the body, abstract representations of weather through maps and diagrams and our identification of human emotions with different weather phenomena. It occurred to me many times throughout the process that the human body shares with weather the qualities of moving air, water, mist and heat, and that the air we breathe in and out becomes part of the weather at some stage.

In today’s world, weather is acting like a barometer for our environmental disasters. As the polar ice caps melt and the holes widen in the ozone layer, we have to accept that humans are now a factor in the creation and alteration of weather. Our actions have tipped the balance resulting in uncertainty in the ‘natural’ order of things.

The attempt by scientists to understand, record and predict the weather is only partially successful, and I think it is this ability to defy our logic and to overwhelm us with its force that ultimately draws me to this subject. This aspect of nature cannot be controlled or subdued and is a poetic reminder that we are not the masters of the universe. Dance shares with the weather a resistance to easy interpretation. It is about force, direction, dynamics and form. But once the body stops dancing, nothing remains, and once the cyclone is still, we are left with only air. It is motion that brings them both into being.

This work has been a return for me to a focus on pure movement and the fascination I have for choreographing the human body. These exceptional dancers have contributed to both the choreographed and the improvised movement in Weather and without their willingness, superlative talents and belief in what we do, I could not have made this work. The stimulating dialogue I have had with my design and music collaborators has also impacted strongly on the creation of this piece and I owe much to their having strong visions within their own practices to bring to this work.
–Lucy Guerin