Lucy Guerin Inc @ Adelaide Centre for the Arts
7:00pm, Thu 25 Feb 2010
It’s great to be back at ACA for this, my first Festival show of 2010. After all, it’s a fabulous space, with the steeply inclined bank of seating offering everyone a great view (though the rows are a little too close together, leading to the constant fear that you’re kneeing the person in front of you). Still, from my lofty position, I could see everything.
The premise behind Untrained is simple, and very intriguing: four dancers, two professionally trained in dance and two visual artists, exploring their artforms. And, as the four men walk across the stage, pausing briefly in a square set in the centre as a form of introduction, it doesn’t take long to differentiate the Trained from the Untrained dancers; the professionals seem to carry their bodies much more carefully, more smoothly, yet with a sense of comfort, ease… there’s a tangible freedom in their movements. The Untrained are stiffer, and appear more self-conscious. Of course, the real giveaway is when they walk into the square and lift their shirts; the Trained are ripped, with the Untrained… well, flabby. A giggle emanates from the audience, but it’s cautious and somewhat embarrassed.
And so begins a series of… well, exercises. Short little vignettes of movement, of art, usually sequentially performed: trained, untrained, trained, untrained. And the dancing bits are both funny and poignant; the Trained leap about with ease, hold their balance effortlessly. The Untrained struggle to get height on their leaps, to maintain their balance, to reach those stretches. And the audience giggles continue, but they’re becoming a little less wary.
It’s soon apparent that the performance isn’t purely focussed on poking fun at the Untrained dancers; the quartet gather in a group and sketch each other, build simple paper models. The tables have turned; the Trained visual artists are now producing the polished works, with the Untrained dancers are only capable of less subtle affairs. But it’s fascinating to see them work, talking each other through the construction of their paper models, before moving on to singing, acting out well-known movie scenes, and returning to dance.
Untrained was a lot of fun; there were sections that were bloody hilarious (usually when the Trained took the piss out of the Untrained), and every attempt is made to make sure that no individual is used as the butt of all jokes; everyone appears to get their time to shine, everyone appears amusingly untalented at something. And that’s the great thing about Untrained – this could have been biassed heavily towards the dancers: there’s certainly a lot of laughs at the visual artist’s expense, and the dancers seem a lot better at their sketching than the other way around. But it was incredibly easy for the audience to not only be amused by the Untrained’s attempts, but also to celebrate them; there were a lot of laughs, but a lot of clapping and cheering too. A lot of heart.
And that tells me that the balance in Untrained was spot-on.