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Dancers Lilian Steiner and Ashley McLellan. Photo: Gregory Lorenzutti

Dance Review: Split at the NAC—10.24.19 to 10.26.19

By Madeline Paiva on October 25, 2019

Read an interview with Split’s Artistic Director Lucy Guerin in our preview article here.

Split is a brilliantly put together and intimate show from Lucy Guerin Inc. that runs until October 26th at the National Arts Centre. The show is characterized by a lot of variance in music, space, and form.

I was incredibly impressed by the sheer talent of both Lilian Steiner and Ashley McLellan. There was a very distinctive navigation of time and space, throughout the piece. Most notably, the score, composed by Scanner, is at times quite anxiety inducing—with beating drums that mimic a kind of heart beating. While there was a lot of variance in beat and tempo, the score was relatively similar, which makes it all the more impressive that Steiner and McLellan were on par at all moments. It would seem difficult to navigate a score or keep time with music that doesn’t have lyrical cues; however, Steiner and McLellan make it look effortless. At the moments they dance in unison, they are in perfect harmony. Not once did they seem to lag behind or pull ahead during the score.

I was incredibly impressed by the sheer talent of both Lilian Steiner and Ashley McLellan. There was a very distinctive navigation of time and space, throughout the piece.

With one dancer clothed and one naked, the show begins with them dancing in complete unison. As the performance continues, the dancers break away from their harmonious movements. At times, they are in conflict with one another, with slapping and hair pulling; and at other times, they endearingly watch one another. Each of these moments, can be interpreted differently for each audience member. Nonetheless, the power dynamic of the duo seems to lean towards a conflict of the self, with both women as two facets of the same person.

While there is a consistent score, there is also somewhat of a retrospective silence. The audience hears beats and drums, but there is still a sense of a calm silence that forces you to steep in the performance. The music and lighting are a conduit for understanding. Split provides a space for interpretation, and I think that is the point. There is no one message to obtain from the show—a lot of it has to do with personal experience and interpretation, which is why I think they show is superbly important to see.

There is an interesting juxtaposition of sound that isn’t the score—the tapping of hands against shoulders, feet stomping on the floor, bare feet dragging against the stage. Each of these sounds contributes to the overall use of space. The dancers use the entire stage to begin with and as the piece progresses, the space is made smaller by a single strip of tape . As the stage is split, the lighting changes.

The performance is heightened by phenomenal lighting choices that amplify the shape and identity of the dance and dancers. As an audience, we are forced to reconcile moments of calm nothingness and erratic chaos. This show is so important to see, so don’t miss out!

My personal favourite moment has the dancers seemingly replicating the movement of clocks. Both dancers are lying on the floor, arms out, their hands beating against the stage almost as if to indicate the seconds that have gone by. There is such a fluidity of motion and focus on form—and I don’t just mean bodily form: it is also temporality and identity.

The show is intimate with absolutely nothing to hide behind. The only prop is the stage and later a roll of duct tape. Steiner and McLellan brilliantly execute this piece, using just their bodies on the stage. The performance is heightened by phenomenal lighting choices that amplify the shape and identity of the dance and dancers. As an audience, we are forced to reconcile moments of calm nothingness and erratic chaos. This show is so important to see, so don’t miss out!


Lucy Guerin Inc. performs Split at the National Arts Centre October 24th-26th at 8pm in the Azrieli Studio. The performance runs approximately 50 mins with no intermission. Content warning: Nudity. Tickets are available here and are $31. Half-price student tickets and $15 Live Rush are available for this performance.