2012 Melbourne Festival Reports

Dance in the aftershock

Write:FAULT LINES   Time:2012/10/3   Hits:278

Dance in the aftershock
03 Oct 2012

Premiering at the Melbourne Festival this month, Fault Lines depicts the human response to the devastating earthquakes in Christchurch and the Sichuan province of China.
The work is performed by 17 members of the Leshan Song and Dance Company of Sichuan.

Fault Lines was commissioned by Brett Sheehy, Artistic Director of the Festival, who had visited the Leshan Song and Dance Troupe and viewed their short piece called Hands Rebirth, a work by choreographer He Chuan about the Sichuan earthquake. “It was Brett’s idea to bring in a choreographer from New Zealand to work with the company to create a full length work,” says New Zealand choreographer Sara Brodie. Brodie was working in her hometown of Christchurch in September 2010 when that earthquake hit, so was a natural choice to choreograph Fault Lines. “It was a subject close to my heart and recent experience,” she says.
Brodie and her assistant choreographer, Ross McCormack, rehearsed the piece with the company in May this year. “I took the dancers through a series of improvisational exercises,” says Brodie. “Being asked to improvise was completely new to them but the results were inspiring. The older dancers found it particularly liberating. Much of the choreography has been built from improvisation exploring a specific idea or physical state. There was also a huge amount of discussion and sharing of stories.  Because we all had experienced a similar event and our bodies retain the physical memory there was a shared understanding immediately. An example is a sequence based on the one of the dancer’s experiences of continually waking during the night thinking there is an aftershock then realizing it is only the motion of her heart beating.”
As well as dance and theatre, the performance includes elements of song. Composer Gareth Farr sat in on the creative process with McCormack and composed the music as the work was put together. In addition to his new score, the show also includes Questioning the Mountain (written by Gao Ping in response to the Sichuan earthquake) and Nor’West Arch (written by Farr in response to Christchurch’s quake).
Initially, Brodie was reluctant to choreograph the piece, thinking that no one had a right to create a show from such awful events. “It took me a long while to get over this but, ultimately, recalling the stories of the dancers and visiting friends and family in Christchurch I came around to thinking there were things that needed to be shared.  The human loss in Sichuan was so vast, but it was the intimate details of experience that drew me back in. We have all shed many tears along the way, but there has also been a lot of love.”  
Creating the piece has humbled Brodie, and she hopes that it will affect the audience deeply, even though most will not have experienced an earthquake. “It has been created as a window into an experience,” she says, “which I hope is opened and will move people.”
Fault Lines plays at The Malthouse, preview 10/11 Oct, season 11-13 Oct.  

- Astrid Lawton