Structures & Sadness

Lucy Guerin Inc.


The collapse of the West Gate Bridge in 1970 is a tragic event in Australia’s history that is etched in Melbourne’s public psyche. Not only did this event cause significant structural damage, including the collapse of 2000 tonnes of steel; it also resulted in a private and public outpouring of grief following the deaths of 35 construction workers. Structure and Sadness is a performance that explores this tragic event through the medium of dance.

Structure and Sadness is in two parts. The first part focuses on the concept of ‘structure’ and is ushered in with a soundtrack that features the sounds of materials – wood, concrete, steel – creaking under stress. Six dancers perform solos and duets based on the work of construction. Their movements are both fluid and resistant and embody structural principles such as tension, compression, gravity and shearing: “Weeks and months were spent figuring out how the body might conform to bits of wood, boards, elastic under tension, a painter’s plank”, reflected Lucy Guerin.

The latter part of Structure and Sadness deals with the aftermath and emotional responses to the collapse. A woman singing along to the radio is interrupted by a news report about the collapse of the West Gate Bridge. Three women clad in long black dresses dance with the heaviness of sorrow under flickering fluorescent lighting. Finally, a wooden plank is placed on top of the dancers and the last dancer walks over them before vanishing side-stage. “Grief is physicalised”, wrote critic John Bailey, “not as an abstract notion but rather as a thing inextricably bound to the sequence of cause and effect that reduces the bridge to rubble”


Images l Jeff Busby

"Guerin has a unique capacity to illuminate deep human emotions through abstract choreography."

The Age