Folk Dance no. 1 emerged out of Fiona’s growing interest in the folk pop movement happening in music and traditional folk dance forms and notations. This work was also heavily influenced by the space in which it was developed, the studio’s of Lucy Guerin Inc. – a former shoe factory in West Melbourne.
Pieces for Small Spaces (Lucy Guerin Inc.. Melbourne) 2009
“I’ve saved Fiona Bryant’s work until last here, even though it seemed a bit of a centrepiece in Small Spaces. It’s just that Bryant is such an exciting choreographer, it’s difficult to do her work justice in words. I first saw her short piece MAX in last year’s Fringe and was wowed – her piece for Small Spaces was equally brilliant. As far as I know Bryant has trained with Deborah Hay’s company or at least investigated her practice, and she really takes it in directions nobody else is charting in Melbourne today.
Her Small Spaces piece began with a simple gesture that completely redefined the space we were inhabiting. A woman with a guitar slung over her shoulder tore away two sections of panelling blocking the window at the end of the room. From the theatrical darkness we’d been dwelling in, suddenly we were watching a frame lit by gorgeous summer afternoon sunlight, a thick lace of green ivy trailing around the bars ofthe window. It was a painterly scene, and it’s the first time a work has ever taken my breath away just by opening a window.
Bryant herself was standing close to the audience and first became visible when the door we’d entered by cracked open and dusky light from the foyer spilled into the space. It felt like an accident – the arrival of a latecomer – and a lot of audience members looked at the door to see what was going on. Something had happened: the latecomer was simply light and air, but its introduction was also Bryant’s arrival. She wore a dark floral shirt, baggy shorts and clunky shoes. Her hair was pulled back lie a German hausfrau’s. Now, nothing has really happened yet: a window and a door have been opened. But already the space has been transformed and a world of associations created. I’m suddenly in a dappled orchard in New England or a farmhouse in Old Europe, a pastoral scene scored by birds chirping (I don’t know if they were real or recorded) and the clip-clop of horses as Bryant begins to skip around the space.
The dance itself is wonderful – shades of tap appear then slip away; wild gestures give way to resigned stillness – and the presence of the musician adds an element of tension. It’s like the old adage about drama: introduce a gun to the scene and you’ve created an inevitable expectation that it’ll go off. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this guitar never got any use in Bryant’s work, since its very existence in the work was already accomplishing something. It did get some play in the end.” John Bailey, Capital Idea blog