11.3 C
Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Djuki Mala are Fabulous

What a marvellous show at Map 57, Djuki Mala is one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had at any show this year.

The dancers from NE Arnhem land, Yolngu people, are also known as the ‘Chooky Dancers’ the comedic energy they bring to their dance when crossing cultural styles, their Zorba the Greek brings the house down.

It is an inspired meshing of traditional dance and modern concoctions, lending their talents to the various forms of dance dating back to the ‘70’s.

The show is backdropped with a huge screen that connects us to the story behind Djuki Mala, elder women explaining how dance was used as a diversion from drugs and alcohol and general misbehaviour on Elcho Island off Arnhem Land. Not only was the idea effective but now Djuki Mala tour the world showing their talents and exposing the world to the culture of their people and their communication with the broader community.

The entrancement of the traditional songs to highly ridiculous piss take humour this mob provide is so well supported by the audio visual, sound, lighting and effects in a seamless roller coaster ride of entertainment that leaves you feeling real good for such a long time, I am still cracking up at some of the poses for instance…

It is a wonderful story about how a simple and powerful idea can change peoples lives and end up a world wide sensation.

Djuki Mala play at Map 57 on the St Kilda Triangle site until Friday July 28, so if you want a great time and a huge belly laugh, get along to this show!


The brainchild of three indefatigable cultural warriors who’ve chosen to call Hong Kong home, “Melodia” is a musical for the universal stage.

A peaceful planet, Zymbalia, is rocked by an inexplicable explosion that throws everything into a state of chaos. Melodia discovers that she is the only one who possesses the innate powers needed to save the Zymbalians from the dark force that confronts them. This sends Melodia on a journey of discovery to find the Enchanter. The Enchanter is an evil force with a blackened heart and two faces. On this journey, she discovers the power of sound and the effects sound vibrations have on people and things.

“Melodia” is an ambitious and impressive child born of the dedication and artistic vision of Lindsey McAlister, Rose Wine Brenner (AKA Chicago Rose) and Violaine Corradi.

Lindsey McAlister

Lindsey is spoken of in reverential tones by everyone that enters her field of operation. She possesses an array of skills, experience, knowledge and contacts, and moves heaven and earth to turn the shred of an idea into a vibrant reality. She has written and produced several youth musicals for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her artistic vision is tempered with extraordinary people-handling skills and underpinned with experience and daring-do.

Rose Winebrenner & Violaine Corradi

This level of magical/metaphysical chemistry finds its resonance and amplification through the other two arms of this trinity. Rose and Violaine bring along not just an apprenticeship level of training, but full mastercraft status after their years of service with Cirque du Soleil.

Violaine, formerly a native of Montreal Quebec, the home of Cirque du Soleil, was inducted into this unique circus troupe, more or less from its beginning, as one of three composers to create their special brand of music to accompany their acts. While she has branched out to do other things in theatre since arriving in Asia, she remains an active member of Cirque du Soleil. Musically she is multi-talented with a command over a range of instruments as well as being conversant with a broad range of musical genres. The music of “Melodia” is testament to her virtuosity as it sweeps through an umbrella of world music styles: from traditional to Afro, Latin, Funk, Delta Blues, Blue Grass, etc.

Rose has a similarly impressive history. She began her professional musical career at the age of 15 when she started on a path she holds steadfast to today. A major part of her earlier work was playing solo piano 4-5 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week in bars, up-market restaurants and clubs in Chicago. Other venues she regularly played in included churches, schools, libraries, private parties and various other events. As Chicago Rose she delivered over 1,400 performances as the lead female in Cirque du Soleil’s ‘ZAiA’ which ran from 2008 until 2012 at the Venetian Casino on the Cotai Strip in Macau.

While these three are the drivers behind this unique production, what is up front that the audience gets to see is a phantasmagoria of budding youthful talent amidst a sea of colour and movement that instantly impregnates the audience’s imagination with its athleticism and stunning presence. Containing a cast of 100 who were selected from a field of 800 applicants, this represents the best of Hong Kong talent. The cast includes a small number of professional artists seeded amongst them to give that extra edge. There is the 2016 US Aerial Champion, Joe Lam; the 2016 winners of the Acro Dance Division of the World Championship of Performing Arts, Corina Sucre and Daniel Sierralta, and their daughter, following in the same tradition, Ainara Mireya Sierralta Sucre; Chicago Rose and others.

The cast is divided into groups: main actors, ensemble, singers, acrobats and dancers and, given they only had three months of rehearsals to bring it to stage, the groups only had time to work within their own fields before bringing it all together over the last couple of weeks. Marsha Roddy designed the costumes and stunning sets. Giselle Liu and Kirsten Ho both choreographed the show with Kirsten focusing on the dance routines while Giselle did the choreography for the songs. Scott Gibson as musical director brought an amazing score together with songs and tunes that will stand the test of time. Kumi Masunaga was the drum master for Melodia who taught and coached the bucket drums which are employed to great effect in many of the dance scenes.

These five people are all highly regarded in their fields and each has awards and prizes in either film, TV or live theatre. Interestingly the theatre space the show takes place in, Queen Elizabeth Stadium, doubles as a sports stadium and this is entirely appropriate. With such a large cast and so many on stage at any one time along with large oversize puppets, aerial work and a stunning light show, it is easy to see that a smaller more conventional stage would not do it justice.

The calibre of those taking part is best illustrated by Melodia, played by Aoi Toba. Aoi arrived in Hong Kong several years ago without a word of English, and has already appeared in two productions with limited speaking roles. Now, in such a short time, her English is fluent and she is the lead actor giving full vent to her part in both speech and song. Aoi is one in a million whose talents and natural ability shine in a perfectly unaffected way.

Aoi is well supported by an equally energetic and highly skilled cast of students of various nationalities chosen from 30 different local and international schools. As well as Hong Kong locals, there are mainland Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Dutch, Slovakian, Italian, Turkish, British, Australian, Filipino and others.

Together they bring the narrative together with song, dynamic action and a mix of art forms including music, dance, aerial arts, puppetry, acrobatics, drumming and multi-media projected images. The light show owes a lot to cymatics whereby sound waves and patterns are given visual pulsating symmetrical form. Sound and its effects on human behavior play an important and stunning part in the storyline. Melodia’s favourite classroom in the story is the Sound Science Lab where she demonstrates cymatics at work with a cymatic frequency generator device.

A key focus of the musical is to emphasise the role of women in a literary form. Lindsay, Rose and Violaine all feel there is an urgent need to present females as young heroines in strong roles to make an impression on young people today. They hope to sway teenagers away from the false stereotypes and sterile values and images of the Internet, Facebook, Snapchat, etc, they are subjected to daily by offering them a glimpse on this exciting new world of live theatre that they can readily identify with.


Melodia Pupperty at Shatin Racecourse
Melodia Pupperty at Shatin Racecourse

Melodia runs from April 27th – 29th inclusive at 7:30pm. There is also a matinee session on Apr 29th at 2:30.

For more information, click on this link:-


Melodia is generously supported by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and is brought to you by the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation.

Chunky Move – Theater der Welt 2017

Chunky Move has been invited to present An Act of Now at the prestigious Theater der Welt 2017, Hamburg from Friday 2 until Sunday 4 June 201 

An Act of Now is the award-winning production from Chunky Move Artistic Director, Anouk van Dijk. 

On stage a glasshouse stands isolated – smoke its only visible inhabitant. In a moment of precise, dynamic movement, the veil of smoke is broken. Seven dancers fill the space, drawn to, yet confined by its boundaries. Who will lead? Who will follow? As the balance of power shifts, who will flourish, and ultimately, who will survive?

With each audience member watching and listening in on headphones as Van Dijk’s intense physical choreography unfolds within the glasshouse, An Act of Now creates a deeply immersive and intimate audience experience.  

Created in 2012, ‘during my first months in Melbourne, says Anouk van Dijk, ‘I started to connect the old with the new, continuing an investigation I had begun in the Netherlands reflecting on my own cultural identity. I now look ahead to unknown territory, using familiar stepping-stones to discover new insights into a society that is in many ways similar to my own, but that is at the same time profoundly different; because of its geography; its inhabitants; its history; its environment; and because of its deep connection with the land. Now planted here – An Act of Now. 

In this collision of emotions, conversations and movement, An Act of Now found its shape. It is at times a dark and questioning piece, imbued with a sense of anticipation and hope for what lies ahead’. 

Theater der Welt 2017 will present 40 productions from across the globe. Artists from every continent are invited to Hamburg – artists whose original and influential signature works push forward the development of performing arts and highlight the spectrum of international theatrical development: drama, performance, dance, literature, but also the crossover with visual arts, film and music. 

Concept, Choreography & Direction Anouk van Dijk; Composition & Sound Design Marcel Wierckx; Lighting Design Niklas Pajanti and Costume Design Anna Cordingley 

With Joel Bray, Peter Cseri, Lauren Langlois, Alya Manzart, James vu Anh Pham, Niharika Senapati and Nina Wollny. 

Chunky Move constantly seeks to redefine what is or what can be contemporary dance in an ever-evolving Australian culture. The work is diverse in form and content encompassing productions for the stage, site specific, new-media and installation work. 

Anouk van Dijk is available for interview. 

Chunky Move, An Act of Now, created by Anouk van Dijk will be presented at Theater der Welt 2017, Hamburg from Friday 2 until Sunday 4 June 2017.

Chunky Move announce Next Move 2017 Commission


Dancer and Choreographer, James Batchelor has been announced as the recipient of Chunky Move’s prestigious Next Move 2017 commission. 

2017 marks the 10th anniversary of Next Move, a program that directly supports and promotes Australia’s unique choreographic voice.  This milestone will be celebrated with the full-length commission by James Batchelor over a two-week season in November at the Chunky Move Studios, Southbank.

Next Move 2017 is not only an opportunity to develop a new contemporary work presented by Chunky Move it also includes opportunities for national and international touring.

A pivotal and unprecedented platform for Australian independent dance makers, Next Move has commissioned a range of Australian artists to create new works, offering them full creative control and access to the resources and producing expertise of Chunky Move.

‘It is wonderful to see Chunky Move’s Next Move program reach its 10th anniversary this year. Over the past ten years, the program has a proud and celebrated history, having provided unprecedented opportunities to many independent choreographers, performers and creatives.  With the support of our government partners, Australia Council for the Arts and Creative Victoria, we are proud to contribute to choreographic development in Australia and to nurture a vibrant contemporary dance scene.  We are thrilled to welcome James Batchelor as this year’s Next Move recipient and look forward to seeing him bring his artistic voice to Chunky Move’, says Anouk van Dijk, Artistic Director, Chunky Move.

‘I am so excited to have this opportunity to create a new work with Chunky Move’, says James Batchelor. ‘There have been so many inspiring works commissioned through the Next Move program and I am absolutely honoured to be part of this initiative that supports independent choreographers. This being the 10th year of the Next Move program, I am looking forward to working with Chunky Move and my collaborators to re-imagine what is possible. We will be working hard throughout the year on our creation and developing new ways to engage with audiences in the studio and online.’

James Batchelor’s mission as an artist is to make work that inspires curiosity. To shift assumptions, widen awareness and create possibility. He strives to find ways that dance can be a conversation, collaboration and exchange with other disciplines and communities. His work is particular in how it responds to context, from conception to presentation; it strongly considers how a performance exists within a specific space and time. James’ projects have been presented by major festivals and venues around the world in theatres, galleries, museums and public contexts.

Previous recipients of Next Move include Stephanie Lake, Atlanta Eke, Antony Hamilton, Adam Wheeler, Benjamin Hancock, Melanie Lane and Jo Lloyd and Nicola Gunn.

Chunky Move is Victoria’s flagship contemporary dance company and Next Move is their commitment to developing the next generation of leading dance makers. For the past nine years, they have commissioned a range of Australian artists to create new works, offering them full creative control and access to the resources and producing expertise of the Company.


Arts Centre – Hamer Hall – 21-23 October 2016

Paying homage to six of her biggest influences, Sara Baras’ Voces is a series of short performances punctuated by recordings of short monologues from each of these artists delivered in Spanish. Six panels displaying the faces of these artists line the stage, each of which is given a spotlight before their corresponding performances.

Baras is undoubtedly talented. Her footwork is impressively precise, and she demonstrates masterful technique in the stillness of her upper body as she taps increasingly faster in her signature style. However, she does not deliver much beyond this. There is no story, and contradictory to Baras’ selected Antonio Gades monologue recording which discusses dance as an outlet of emotion, there is no emotion in Baras’ dancing. Her performance is a celebration of her technical skill showmanship rather than an expression of emotion.

Costuming and lighting decisions are frequently questionable, including the all-black suits against the black set, and the inexplicable blue lighting near the beginning of the performance. Baras’ strength does not lie here.

Baras clearly draws a crowd of adoring fans

With Baras’ fast pace and the rhythmic beat of the cajón, the performance is almost more of an auditory experience than a visual one. The rich, almost uncomfortably raspy vocals from Rubio De Pruna, Miguel Rosendo and Israel Fernández complement Baras’ performance.

Baras’ style and the intimate nature of the audience engagement seems incongruous with both the attempted show format and the choice of venue. Spanish speakers in the audience engage with Baras and her dance partner Jose Serrano throughout the performance, responding positively to moments of intimacy in particular. Excited cheers and exclamations in Spanish pepper the show. In one moment of physical closeness between Serrano and Baras, an audience member shouts out excitedly in Spanish. I learn that this loosely translates to “that’s hot!” An eruption of laughter from the stalls shows the audience’s support of this informal sentiment.

Although well-received by her adoring Spanish-speaking fans, Voces is not particularly accessible to a mainstream, non-Spanish-speaking audience. With each monologue delivered in Spanish, all vocals delivered in Spanish, and no narrative tying the segments together, the performance relies on the audience’s familiarity with the art form. Given the nature of the art form, this performance would also arguably be much better suited to a smaller, informal venue.

What The Water Gave Me

Melbourne Festival is now in full swing, with a plethora of amazing shows taking over our city for the next two weeks, among the very best of international touring works are others made more locally. Dance Territories, this year continues with strength choosing to present work that sits not quite within the realms of dance, with the work by Sarah-Jane Norman, also sitting within the context of installation all while drawing audience inwardly into this political charged worked that cuts a swathe through the idea  or concept of colonization here in Australia, TAGG spoke with Norman ahead of the season…

Sarah Jane what stance did you take when exploring or unpacking colonialism?

In making the works that comprise Unsettling Suite, the body of work which includes the three pieces I am performing and exhibiting at Melbourne Festival, I set out to explore the intergenerational echo of colonial violence as it is lived through though the body. I have found it to be true of my own experience as an Aboriginal person, as well as that of many people descended from ancestry which has been directly marked by colonial violence, disposession, slavery, genocide, etc- that the trauma experienced by our ancestors and older relatives is carried quite literally in our bones- it is an ineffable, complex, but very concrete physical sensation, this weight of history. I grew up in a country town which cashed big time on peddling a lace doillie view of Australian colonial heritage, in which the brutality of the settler history was overwritten by pseudo-victorian country quaintness. This is the sort of thing which probably seems quite harmless and charming to a lot of Australians who are happy to spend a weekend taking devonshire tea at a stately homestead without giving much thought to how many Aboriginal people might have been disposessed or killed by the pastoralist who built it, not to mention the extent to which the living descendents of that clan continue to be affected. We carry the weight of this violence in the depths of our beings- diving in and attempting some understanding of how that grief is lived on a daily basis- through the body- is part of a bigger personal and political process which I aim to engage through my work, and I invite audiences to join me in that. Non-Aboriginal people seem to have a hard time engaging with the truth of Australia’s history and their complex position as the beneficiaries of violence. When the rules and mythologies of the dominant culture are weighted in your favour, it’s very easy to retreat into collective denial. This land was stolen by force from our ancestors, who never ceded their Soverignty. This history remains shamefully unacknowledged, because to admit to a theft of such a scale is to destabilise the legitimacy of Australian nationhood. This denial of history and its continuing consequences creates an enourmous subliminal tension in the Australian psyche- the overwhealming guilt, shame and instability which underpins it has generated an Invasaion Complex- why do you think Australia patrols its borders so strictly? Why we think it is acceptable to violate the rights of refugees? Because Australia is terrified of losing what it unlawfully and violently stole in the first place. When i called the series “Unsettling Suite”, this was the kind of un-settling i was calling for. Australia will remain in a state of arrested development- culturally and politically- until this history and the continued marginalisation of Indigenous people is atoned for and addressed. Saying “sorry” is a start, but it is not enough. It’s also not enough to make room for Aboriginal stories and voices only as far as they are pleasing or digestible for white audiences. There is a range of aesthetic and thematic conventions that have come to define Aboriginal art as it  is recognised by the white gaze. My work fulfils none of them. As a contemporary artist I am looking for a new language to speak of a deep and complex grief, and my work is a direct invitation for audiences to meet me in that process. I want audience to get close to that process- we are all implicated in this history, we all have to live with it and with ourselves.

What can audience expect from this work, is it at all political?

Well, my work is engaged with the politics of de-colonisation, so yes. De-colonisation means a lot of things- on the one hand, it involves very concrete political goals. It also involves work that takes place on the symbolic and discursive levels, which is where I am best equipped to contribute as an artist. Artists and intellectuals have always been an important part of social movements because it is part of our job to expose the interlocking joins of oppressive power structures as they operate at a symbolic level, and invite an audience into a deeper consideration of those dynamics and where they might stand withing them. In a Western tradition, you can make an arguement that art is always political, even (maybe especially) when it claims not to be (because there is no such thing as political neutrality). For Aboriginal people, art making has always been intrinsic to our cultural and political survival and resistance- and yes, as a people who have been and continue to be systemically oppressed and marginalised in this country, when we make art as an assertion of our existence, of our sovereignty, of our culture and agency- of course it is political.

Explain to us the strengths and weakness presented by the marriage or cross pollination of artistic forms

I am generally distractable, over-curious and strongly averse to anything that calls itself authority- so the interdisciplinarity of my practice is arguably a product of my temperament. I could never be monogamously married to a single discipline, not because i’m a flake but because the questions that i want to ask as an artist often necessitate calling on a range of technical or artistic pallettes in order to be fully realised. Much of my work is invested in exploring states political and experiential liminality as i understand them- I am a queer, indigenous artist, who is culturally Blak but physically white- passing, who is non-binary gendered but currently feminine presenting, with a complicated and contradictory class background- so my choice to work at the borderlines of disiplines is perhaps reflective of where i am coming from as a person who exists largely at the unstable interstices of identities/selves. Those are the strengths. The weaknesses? It’s a lot of work and you feel like an imposter 99 per cent of the time. It can also be hard to find your place when the the world of cultural production in general is so clearly divided along disciplinary lines, you have to code-switch between one space and the next depending on the context you find yourself in.

What has been your biggest inspiration when creating this work for Dance Territories?

All of the works that make up the Unsettling Suite were first concocted on either the 9 hour bus ride south (through Gundungurra and Yuin country) from Sydney to the south coast, or on the train north from Sydney, through Darkinjung and Gaewegal country, northwards to Newcastle. I generally seed my ideas in Australia, almost always when in the bush or travelling through country, and take them overseas to develop them and refine them- I work regularly in the UK in Europe, and have kept a base in Berlin for the last 8 years. I don’t have a studio- I have most of my best ideas in transitory space- airports and trains, and hotel rooms. Or in the bath. A lot of my work is derived from unpicking complex physical and emotional states so i suppose these liminal kinds of spaces give me clarity. I do remember that The River’s Children was one of those rare cases that arrived as a bolt from the blue- I was on a residency in rural Portugal and I took an afternoon nap, and in the space between sleeping and waking the whole piece just arrived in my mind. I had been staying near a river and washing my clothes in river water every day, and hanging them to dry outside on lines which were strung across a circular planting of eucalyptus trees.

How is the audience pulled into this work, and is their involvement a catalyst within the work?

In the case of these two works, then audience are involved very directly, in that both works make direct invitations for the audience to either offer something or consume something that is offered to them. For me, i seek to centralise the audiences body within the experience. This is a huge part of both my artistic and political praxis. I am totally disinterested in being a spectacle for the audience’s gaze- i am the facilitator and the co-agent of an experience which hopefully has many layers. I am much more interested in what an audience member feels or carries of a performance three days or six months or ten years after they have seen it that what they experience in the moment- though of course this is important too. I try to engage, however subtly, as many of the audiences five senses as i can in every work because i want as much of the flesh engaged and present as possible.

Dance Territories opens on the 14th of October, a double bill, The Rivers Children and Take This For It Is My Body will be presented alongside of the work of french artist, Nacera Belaza who will be presenting The Shout for more info click here



Over the past four years, to mark the commencement of Melbourne Festival the five clans of the Kulin Nation: Wurundjeri, Boon Wurrung, Taungurung, Dja Dja Wurrung and Wadawurrung n welcome us to country in Tanderrum, a ceremony that up until recently had not been performed here in Melbourne since 1835.

These are the first words spoken before the 18 days of stories and sensations that will follow: an opening ceremony and Welcome to Country by the First Peoples, the traditional custodians of this land. Through Tanderrum, we acknowledge the lore of the creator spirit Bunjil and pay respects to the vibrant living culture of this country.

Photos by Timothy Treasure


From Shakespeare in Hindi to tackling human trafficking: the best of OzAsia festival

One of the best offerings from this year’s OzAsia festival was Vertigo 20

Sometimes the weather simply won’t cooperate. Between a state-wide blackout, monsoonal rain, and the worst winds ever, Adelaide’s OzAsia Festival, which finished on Sunday, faced a bumpy ride in its tenth anniversary year.

For some, this meant missing out on Japanese choreographer Hiroaki Umeda’s pixelated video storm in Split Flow and Holistic Strata, cancelled amid actual howling gales and pelting rain.

Yet despite the meteorological conditions, the festival was a convincing celebration of the vitality of an Asia of which Australia is increasingly a part.

For us, six performance works stood out for their bold placement of the body centre-stage: Softmachine Rianto, an Indonesian-Singaporean dance and video collaboration; Skin, a challenging work from Malaysia on human trafficking; Cambodia’s Phare Circus, in which performers perform the seemingly impossible; As If To Nothing, a Hong Kong dance piece on the mutability of memory; Twelfth Night, a Hindi version of Shakespeare’s beguiling gender comedy; and , an astounding blend of previous work by Israeli choreographer, Noa Werthheim.

Softmachine Rianto
Softmachine Rianto.

Softmachine Rianto, directed by Singaporean Choi Fa Kai, features the kinesthetically brilliant and versatile Indonesian dancer Rianto. Each of Rianto’s dance sequences was followed by a self-revelation, conveyed through direct address to the audience and snippets from Choi’s documentary on the dancer.

Rianto entered the stage wearing the refined female facemask used in Javanese topeng, enacting the dance of a princess pining for her lover. At first the point seemed to be just seeing a strongly gendered female role danced by a man with such precision. Yet successive segments asked us to question how gender is presented both onstage and in real life.

We saw Rianto, variously, as a sexy woman in a popular Javanese dance form, a brilliant contemporary dancer, and a male dancing sensually for an audience of men. Along the way, we learnt that he works in Japan, is married to a Japanese woman, and lives a life as complex and fluid as his dancing suggests.



Skin, by the Malaysian collective Terryandthecruz, placed the audience in the stage work itself. Malaysia, currently home to more than 90,000 refugees, is a significant destination and transit point for human trafficking in the region. Rather than showing us “the plight of the refugees” and seeking a “sympathetic” response, the show put us in the skins of those being processed at the hands of strangers.

Patrons assembled at a pre-arranged point and filled out forms that ominously released the producers from any liability, and asked participants, now in the role of refugees, to assess their looks, intelligence, tax contributions, and willingness to learn the Malaysian language.

All personal effects were surrendered before we reassembled in another building to be interrogated individually, then arbitrarily placed into two groups and prohibited from speaking. One group was singled out for harsher punishment and provided with yellow blindfolds. A single individual was escorted from the building wearing a red blindfold.

Both the yellow and favoured “green” groups were led into a shipping container, and faced a large opening. The wall of an adjacent container then opened, revealing a stark, white tiled room. Three dancers presented abstract, yet emotionally resonant images of bodies experiencing privation, abuse, and pain. The container filled with bodies, sometimes swallowing up the solo dancers, pulling them back into the undertow, appearing to devour them.

Further details are best not revealed here, as Skin is likely to tour round Australia next year. Though it exposed us to the experience of human trafficking in ways some might find confronting, the audience debriefed in a safe space before returning to the “real world.”

Phare Circus

Phare Circus.

The exuberant and gravity-defying antics of Cambodia’s Phare Circus, presented in the Festival’s pop-up Ukiyo Tent, provided a welcome counterpoint to Skin’s provocations.

Drawn from graduates of Cambodia’s Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus School, the company are among the first generation of circus performers to emerge following the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and the near-total extermination of the country’s artists. Phare is a success story, with a permanent home in Seam Reap and road companies touring internationally.

This tight, conceptually integrated, spare production featured eight performers, two musicians, and a visual artist who created three works on canvas while surrounded by a riot of rhythm and movement.

The performance is heavy on human pyramids, tumbling, and death-defying balancing acts held together by a percussive musical score, playful interaction with the audience, and clowning. It was a reminder that the trained human body is an amazing machine, capable of communicating across cultures by the simple act of moving.

As If To Nothing

As If To Nothing.

Similarly dynamic was City Contemporary Dance Company’s As If To Nothing, by choreographer Sang Jijia. Searching for the right phrase to describe this production – because what’s art without a label? – we settled on “neo-Modernist”.

It still isn’t right, but it conveys something of the moral seriousness and skill of this contemporary dance masterpiece, which banished superficial cleverness and self-reference to the rubbish bin. A large, white fabric cube in which a cross-section of interior white wall and a corner window were wheeled around from position to position, provided the only set design.

The company of a dozen dancers were relentlessly energetic and precise. Rarely has visual projection, which hogs the eye in live performance, been used so well. In part it was because the images repeated the dancers’ movements, working as visual amplification but always returning us to the true locus of attention – the bodies of the men and women wrapping and warping around the space.

The floor was a smooth white, and the actors wore socks. This choreography was a glissando, and the control required for a high-energy show was considerable.
Yet, as with Softmachine Rianto, bravura display was not the point. Instead, in true Modernist spirit, what came across is a sincere exploration of emotional depth: attraction, relation, sex, anxiety, need, the madness that lurks beneath the surface of everyday life. The show had the courage to end on a downbeat note, confirming the integrity of vision that ran throughout.

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night by the Theatre Company Mumbai, in the loosest but truest of Shakespearean adaptations, was an anarchic ride into inter-cultural mayhem. We saw it at a schools’ matinee, and the match between the Bollywood energy of the cast and the expressive bent of the audience (to be polite) was perfect.

In a blend of Hindi and English – there are subtitles but one barely needs to glance at them – the show rollicked through the classic oh-my-God-I-thought-you-were-a-bloke-yet-I-found-myself-strangely-attracted-to-you-anyway fable using a mixture of slapstick, song and dance, infectious audience interaction and lots and lots of colour.

Most of Twelfth Night’s plot was paraphrased, transposed, or satirised by actors who stayed on stage throughout, sitting at the back and regularly erupting like a rowdy family. Each one has unique skills: this one a dancer, that one a singer, that one a comedian. Yet all of them were all of these things too, which made the production even better.

The show had its moments of calm and emotional stillness, and they were beautifully effective. The last song of “eternal spiritual search” was one example, which off-set the high-fives energy to communicate the deep humanity of Shakespeare’s original.

Vertigo 20

Vertigo 20.

Vertigo 20 by Vertigo Dance Company is described in its program blurb as a “weav[ing] together [of] twenty years of Vertigo Dance Company’s creations”, which under-states the brilliance of a piece that not so much defied expectations as inhabited a liminal zone permanently outside them. This is only partly a metaphor.

A company of 11 dancers moved in a low-walled grey-shadowed rectangular space with ledges jutting out at waist and shoulder height. The choreography had the assured precision of a dream whose meaning lies just beyond conscious grasp. Patterns constantly asserted themselves yet, just as they appeared to solidify, transformed into other patterns. A group of men became, suddenly, a group of women (how?) A group became a pair; a pair became a line; a line became a cluster.

The basis of the work was the fractal, and the dance overall was a sort of human Mandelbrot set, waves of movements cresting and transforming in the blink of an eye into other movements. There were no beginnings or ends, just a single stream of physical adjustment – falling, leaping, swaying – in sequences that were an uncategorisable blend of the mechanical and the organic.

This show was definitely not a “best of” from past works. This was Noa Wertheim and her dancers actively engaging the act of memory. The piece had the cognitive immediacy of a firing synapse. At the end, we wanted to see it all over again.

The festival sported a wide variety of satellite activities. Anchoring them was the Good Fortune Market, a groovy mini-precinct created on the banks of the River Torrens. On offer were everything from the hipster fusion sounds of Hong Kong band SIU2 and the retro-psychedelic funk of the Cambodian Space Project, to Japanese okonomiyaki (pan fried batter and cabbage), possibly the world’s most comforting comfort food.

As the OzAsia Festival enters its second decade, both the Asian region and Australia’s relationship with it have changed. No longer can the festival be seen by anyone as a showcase for ethnic exotica and performance heritage.

In creativity, accessibility, skill and daring, the productions on offer embodied an energy and imagination comparable to, and at times exceeding, anything prestigious European-focused international festivals might present. This is to be welcomed. Far from losing itself in a sea of globalised mediocrity, the best of live performance from Asia retains an indefeasible identity while responding to cultural influences from all over the world.

This review was co-written by:
Julian Meyrick
[Professor of Creative Arts, Flinders University] and
William Peterson
[Senior Lecturer in Drama, Flinders University]

It’s Time To Make A Move

Chunky Move are a company that have and continue to be at the forefront of Australian dance, often blurring the lines between technology and the physical form, they have deservingly won a place in the heart of many. Now its ninth year, their groundbreaking initiative Next Move, see’s the company commission the work of emerging and independent dance makers, something that is now more crucial than ever. As part of this year line up is Mermermer, a performance that has come from two of Melbourne’s most talented creators, Nicola Gunn who most recently  was responsible for Ghetto Blaster and Jo Lloyd who last presented Confusion For Three at Arts House. It’s a bold pairing, the two possessing a unique style that is each their own, and should make for an amazing performance. Jo Lloyd spoke with TAGG ahead of the upcoming season

What was the genesis for creating the work?

Over the past three years Nicola Gunn and I have engaged with each others works, and one duration piece we made for Melbourne Now (2014) opened up a practice which engaged my movement with Nicola’s words. This triggered us to develop this intersection of languages further, and Mermermer became the continuation of this preoccupation of ours. We also shared an interest in extinction and the premise of entertaining each other.

Visually, what can we expect from the work?

Saturation and landscape have been strong considerations for this work. As well as utilising the physical and verbal languages to stimulate the imagination and shift perceptions, we have worked with concepts of representation and the connotations the supporting elements conjure up.

What has come out of the collaboration between yourself and Nicola?

We have been conscious of engaging in the strengths of our individual practices, so we can augment what we each know how to do. We are more interested in finding modes of performance that are unfamiliar and engage with a liveness in performance.

What has been some of the more unexpected elements of the work?

Ideas and concepts that came up early in the process persisted and came back frequently enough that we became convinced those early ideas were actually the guts of the work. Yet the distractions along the way were a reminder that the process is the piece.

Do you identify with any current trends in dance performance, and do you sit with in or outside of such things?

Dance and the body engaging with a broad range of performance contexts has had a surge recently (movement in galleries, dance in theatre performances and site specific works) which could be referred to as a performance trend. I don’t consciously try to have a perspective on performance trends whilst I’m engaging in a creative process, my focus is perhaps more about consciously working in relation to my own performance trends.

What does being included in Next Move, offer up, being an independent performer?

The rare opportunity Chunky Move offers with Next Move is immersive, the artist is able to engage with the staff throughout the process and create the work in the venue where it will be presented. I have had to remind myself that the support is available, because as an independent artist you are used to taking on many roles, but with this commission, there are experts in their field ready to do the work we often take on ourselves.

For more info or to book your tickets to Next Move, which opens on Friday the 9th of September click here.

Cut The Sky

Cut The Sky by Marrugeku, is easily definable as being crafted to the highest standard, in terms of production, visual imagery and choreography, these elements are almost beyond fault. However, it takes more than this triptych to create a truly memorable experience for the audience. With so many companies and individuals in recent times having turned to climatic disasters as concept for the creation of new create work, the subject matter is in desperate need of a company or individual to come along and approach with an entirely novel viewpoint. Otherwise the subject will continually fail in engaging with and inciting new conversations with the general public. Despite good intentions, and indeed the vital conversation that is communicated here in Cut The Sky, the thing that most dogged this performance, was an over riding sense of having “seen it all before”.

Cast give impressively, however lacked energy and a came across as a little tired resulting in a sense of disconnection, or disinterest that for an audience member is hard to shake. Transitions between individual solos and group choreography were at best jarring, and a greater sense of fluidity should be a constant thought when developing a performance as cross-disciplinary as Cut They Sky.

Not even the inclusion of two of Nick Caves most iconic songs, were able to insight anything deeper than a superficial hook, somehow Cut The Sky also missed an opportunity to provide an emotional connection through the inclusion of such popular iconography, something of which has been employed to great success by many others, a shame as Cut The Sky is a beautifully surrealist vision of a dystopian future, that however bleak as a reality, is one audiences are inherently drawn toward.

The projections that feature throughout this performance are to a degree, successful in painting a foretelling picture, helped by the underpinning music, though at times, some of the images- whole towns destroyed by natural disaster, are so re-cognisable as not being Australian, that it breaks from a visual rhythm, and detracts from the message as a whole.

Many of the production elements could also have been tightened, better use of North Melbourne Meat Market’s impressive size a simple remedy that could of given greater depth of vision, instead with the performance compacted into the furthest corner, the whole experience was a little cramped, and with so much visual noise, it was impossible to take in each element together as a whole. Closing scenes are undeniably impressive, when the sky is literally cut open, and the lithe choreography finds a physical crescendo; closing scenes delivered while water pours down and over each of the performers an image that remains post performance.