• Decrease Text Size
  • Decrease Text Size
  • Print

Training the Untrained

There is no doubt that Lucy Guerin can dance.

After graduating from Adelaide's Centre of Performing Arts in 1982 she danced with leading Australian dancers Russell Dumas in Sydney and Nanette Hassall in Melbourne before spending seven years in New York where she built her skills and experience with the likes of Tere O'Connor Dance, Bebe Miller and Sara Rudner. In 2002 she established Lucy Guerin Inc. a Melbourne based dance company committed to challenging and extending the art of dance.

So how did one of Australia's most influential dancers and choreographers come to work with two men with no dance experience at all?

"It started as a week-long workshop for me to explore an idea - mainly because I'm quite interested in the way non-dancers move," Lucy says.

Two men dancing

Untrained performers Ross Coulter and Simon Obarzanek

The idea became Untrained, a dance work that brought together two professional dancers with two men with no dance experience at all.

Untrained premiered in Melbourne at the inaugural Dance Massive festival in 2009 before being presented at the 2009 Spring Dance Season at the Sydney Opera House, 2010 Adelaide Festival and 2010 Hong Kong Arts Festival.

In May 2010 the performance sought a new cast. After advertising in local papers for 'performers without performance experience', Lucy met Dandenong locals Michael Hussey-Smith and Billy-Joe Wikitera, two men with no dance experience but a lot of tenacity.

In the world of professional dance, to be 'trained' can mean 10 to 15 years of study, but Michael and Billy-Joe had just two weeks of rehearsals before setting off on a six-week Victorian tour.

"I can't do cartwheels, so the first time I tried I fell over and landed flat on my face," said Billy-Joe. But the two men battled through the gruelling 10am-6pm rehearsals to develop their skills and explore what it really means to be a 'professional dancer'.

The result was a performance that has been described as "honest, quite funny and full of joy."

This is the kind of work that interests Lucy Guerin. Work that goes beyond the borders of traditional dance, work that takes you behind the scenes or explores everyday events, work that is accessible for both audiences and dancers, the trained and untrained alike.

Man jumping in the air with his hands outstretched

Untrained performer Simon Obarzanek

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2012, Lucy Guerin Inc. continues to grow from strength to strength, producing original works that push the boundaries of dance, earning critical acclaim in Australia and internationally, and proving that not only can Lucy Guerin dance, but she can also successfully direct an innovative, contemporary dance company.

Four men two are standing side by side and two are jumping

Untrained season one performers (L-R) Byron Perry, Antony Hamilton, Simon Obarzanek and Ross Coulter