2013 New Zealand Tour Reports

QUAKE ART

Write:FAULT LINES   Time:2013/9/20   Hits:172

Christchurch Arts Festival 2013
Fault Lines
Concept & Direction Sara Brodie
Choreography & Concept Sara Brodie
Assistant Choreography Ross McCormack
Music Gareth Farr
Additional Music Gao Ping

Lighting & AV Design Paul Lim

Set & Costume Design Mark Macintyre

Music performed by Christchurch Symphony
Orchestra (NZ), Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra(Beijing)
Conductor of the CSO Kenneth Young

Creator, Hands Rebirth He Chuan


at Aurora Centre, Christchurch
From 19 Sep 2013 to 21 Sep 2013 

Reviewed by Paul Young, 20 Sep 2013
 

Fault Lines was developed to commemorate the devastating earthquakes in Sichuan in 2008 and Christchurch 2011. Premiered at the Melbourne Festival in 2012, it is the result of the collaborative endeavours of multiple partners including the Christchurch and Melbourne Arts Festivals, the Sichuan Provincial and Leshan Municipal Ministries for culture , not to mention the 18 dancers, assistant choreographer Ross McCormack, Troupe Leader Lu Feng, Vice Troupe Leader Li Lilin, Company Director Lyu Yong, Translator Zeng Yanhong, and directpr/choreographer Sara Brodie. As Brodie acknowedges in the programme notes, “Many hands have helped create this work”.

The Leshan Troupe has toured several times internationally and is well regarded. The large opening night audience includes many Chinese Cantabrians, Festival officials and notables such as Mayor Bob Parker. It feels like an important diplomatic event!

The promotional material describes how the earthquakes in China were a crucible for international communities and a catalyst for increased neighbourly relationships, something we in Christchurch have experienced first hand, but this theme is not substantively addressed in the performance.  Earthquake related facts and other graphics are periodically projected onto the cyclorama, but do not seem to have any particular relationship to what is happening on stage. The choreography does not plumb the depths one would expect, and neither does it evoke the visceral impact we have experienced from our own earthquakes.

The score by Gareth Farr and Gao Ping is evocative throughout the work, moody and dramatic where necessary, often having a quality evocative of a calm before a storm. There are entertaining moments. A Traditional figure moves watchfully across the stage like an ancestral guardian; a woman dances a tragic disjointed solo wearing a single high heel, while another woman tickles the audiences funny bone by speaking safety instructions through a megaphone. A dancer rolls DANGER tape to define the stage space as a disaster zone, and we are reminded of other danger zones we have experienced, without having to confront the danger again.

The dancers of the Leshan Song and Dance Troupe have impressive technical capacity. When in comfortable choreographic territory, they cut clearly and concisely through the space, executing some remarkable acrobatic technique and showing they are very comfortable with a kind of traditional dramatic movement communication. However, softer, more metaphoric movement sequences, and less stylised pedestrian movement without an obvious dramatic imperative seems to be a challenge for them to perform, and at times they appear to merely be filling time by walking around the stage.

Fault Lines much like its similarly themed predecessor, the 2011 Christchurch Art Festival's Tilt by Christchurch Choreographer Fleur de Their, intends to facilitate deeper reflection of life's vicissitudes. While Tilt captured the zeitgeist, Fault Lines invites more careful reflection. Nearly three years after the Christchurch earthquake, there is much to be hopeful for, and as the need for art as earthquake therapy subsides I look forward to eventually leaving the aftermath behind, literally and conceptually.