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.

In developing Structure and Sadness, Lucy Guerin undertook extensive research into the event and investigated Royal Commission papers, Public Record Office documents and personal testimonies. For her, “the difficult part was to extract from this compelling story the elements of a dance piece” and to create a piece that responded sensitively to the tragic loss of life (Making Structure and Sadness Program, 2006).

The resulting work does not attempt to explain the factual or personal elements of the event but rather explore the visual, sensory, physical and emotive aspects of the bridge’s collapse. According to Lucy Guerin:

“The dancers and I spent a lot of time finding a movement vocabulary for this work. After a while it became clear that the physical forces acting on the bridge and the emotional impact on those involved, both had a similar movement vocabulary… so it was the two interpretations of collapse – structural and emotional – one a result of the other, that became the central themes of the work” (Structure and Sadness Program, 2007).

In 2007, Structure and Sadness was awarded a Helpmann Award for Best Dance Work and an Australian Dance Award for Outstanding Performance by a Company.

Watch excerpts of Structure and Sadness

Presented at Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne, October 2006.
Premiered in 2006 Melbourne International Arts Festival.

PREMIER SEASON | Melbourne International Arts Festival 2006

“Guerin has a unique capacity to illuminate deep human emotions through abstract choreography.”
The Age (2006)

Images by Jeff Busby