Dance review: PIECES 2022

An experimental wonder displaying the radical power of contemporary dance.

Commissioned by Lucy Guerin Inc and The Substation, PIECES is an annual program for three choreographers to each create a new 20-minute solo work. Designed to support artists interested in experimentation, commissioned works take creative risks and expand understandings of what contemporary dance can be.

Choreography from Melanie Lane, Rachael Wisby and Amber McCartney in the 2022 showcase speculated and probed, achieving what the program sets out to do.

History and an imagined future combined in Lane’s Into the Woods. With her calming yet demanding presence, Lane told the story of a woman’s persecution on being accused of witchery in the Middle Ages. She set historical records of the woman’s tale against a video backdrop from visual artist Tianyi Liao. Animation moved from details of a hut to a possible future, fragmented and chaotic. 

Despite the powerful premise, the crude animation style was at odds with Lane’s strong lines and quiet power. Rather than adding complexity, the aural narration, animation and props felt like distractions.

Wisby delighted with Roses (this is me imagining things). Highlights were Wisby’s use of gaze and the fluidity of her footwork, as she seemed to shift between being pulled out of herself and regaining control. Elegant stumbles, the rubber of Wisby’s shoe dragging across the floor and a deliberately shifting gaze all instilled a sense of unease – appropriate for the story to come. 

Wisby narrated a reworked Giselle, an apparently Utopian future. With references from Octavia Butler’s 1987 novel Dawn to Rebecca Solnit’s book Orwell’s Roses, her tale predicted resurrection and hope for a new world, with a brutal and thorny underside.

Despite Lane’s quiet power and Wisby’s ability to disturb with whimsy and grace, McCartney’s Tiny Infinite Deaths stole the show. To both revolt and entice an audience with a story about an insect is no small feat, marking McCartney’s exceptional talent. 

A sordid journey of a maggot traversing the in-between, McCartney’s movement was fervent and electrifying. Abject grasps and pulses were inseparable from Makeda Zucco’s score, which demanded change. Grooved, yellowed costuming from Andrew Treloar and a seedy video loop on a small, outdated television strengthened its impact, eliciting laughter and squirms from the seats.

Read: Exhibition review: Zampatti Powerhouse

Despite an occasional discord between movement and technology, the 2022 edition of PIECES displayed the radical power of contemporary dance and proved how necessary it is to foster creative talent.

Lucy Guerin Inc and The Substation
Choreographers: Melanie Lane, Rachael Wisby, Amber McCartney

PIECES was performed until 17 December 2022.

Savannah Indigo is a researcher and copywriter, trained in publishing, dance, literature and law. Passionate about gender issues and promoting equity through tech design, she has researched Indigenous Data Sovereignty for the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector and is developing a paper about harassment in the Metaverse. She has written for Brow Books, Books+Publishing magazine, The Journal of Supernatural Literature (Deakin University) and the Science and Technology Law Association, and is a 2022 Hot Desk Fellow at The Wheeler Centre.