Making metal move: five dancers and eight metal-heads come together in an explosive performance

Making metal move: five dancers and eight metal-heads come together in an explosive performance

Photo by Wayne Smith
Words by Tammy Walters

Movement meets metal in a collaboration between Melbourne dance company Lucy Guerin Inc and Indonesian underground heavy metal choir, Ensemble Tikoro.

The resulting dance piece, Metal, is a collision of artistic expression and culture.

Making its world premiere at Arts Centre Melbourne as part of the second iteration of Asia TOPA (Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts), Metal harmoniously intertwines the extremities of heavy metal music with the delicacy and grace of contemporary dance.

Speaking with choreographer and company director, Lucy Guerin, during their final rehearsal period, she explains that the piece is a reflection of how the collaboration actually came together.

“I made a work about three years ago called Attractor and that was a piece with an Indonesian duo called Senyawa who are really an incredible live music duo,” she says.

“I just loved working with them, I loved their music, I loved the way they thought and the way that they connected to what they did, and so I became curious about Indonesian experimental music or more underground music.”

“I did a bit of research and came across Ensemble Tikoro and I was really attracted to them because they are a choir but they don’t use instruments, so they wouldn’t be locked down or immobilised.

Guerin was drawn to the idea of bringing heavy metal vocals into a more formal context. She wanted to utilise the style and techniques of the genre while adapting them to fit a more structured form.

“I’m not a heavy metal person myself but I’m always attracted to it because of its extremity. It feels like it has an obliterating purity, somehow, and it blasts out your mind a bit.”

Guerin and her team of five dancers flew to Indonesia, spending two weeks engrossed in Ensemble Tikoro’s town of Bandung and becoming exposed to their rich heavy metal music scene, traditions and landscape.

In December, the eight-piece ensemble made their first overseas trip to Melbourne for three weeks of rehearsals. During that period, Guerin observed further differences between the two worlds which she then incorporated into the hour-long performance.

“It was so necessary and important for us to go to Indonesia and see where they live and see Bandung,” she says. “The making of the work was a research into how these two forms could create something more than their separate parts, and also the different cultures and the fact that the majority of Ensemble Tikoro are men – there is one woman – and my dancers are all women. It was trying to bring these two things together and see what that created.”

“The arc of the piece begins with the dancers and the singers in very separate worlds and it’s really about them coming together and influencing and inspiring each other and then going onto create something where they are very much integrated and enmeshed.”

Ensemble Tikoro’s intense throat growls underscore the powerful, whole-body choreography which ebbs and flows between extreme highs and meditative lows. There is a huge energy behind the piece that is driven by both dancers and singers, and has pushed each collaborative party out of their comfort zones.

“[Ensemble Tikoro] said it really freed them up – not only in their bodies, but they found some new ways of singing,” says Guerin. “It’s been so inspiring to see how brave they are and willing to throw themselves into something that is really out of their comfort zone. They’re so adventurous and up for anything and they’ve worked really hard.”

Metal – Development Trailer December 2019 from Lucy Guerin Inc on Vimeo.

Metal hits Arts Centre Melbourne from Monday February 24 until Thursday February 27, tickets via the Asia TOPA website