2013 New Zealand Tour Reports


Write:FAULT LINES   Time:2013/10/11   Hits:355

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

Conductor of the CSO Kenneth Young

Creator, Hands Rebirth He Chuan

at Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland
10 Oct 2013
Reviewed by Dr Linda Ashley, 11 Oct 2013


Choreographies that bravely take on major natural disasters bring with them a need for a certain rigor and depth of contemplation. Opening with the pieces of mahjong as a microcosm of the pending catastrophe, being a game requiring considerable skill, strategic thought and chance not unlike dance, choreography and how humans can respond under extreme duress, is a clever device. Dai kow, one of the largest costumes in Chinese opera has been generously included. Signifying the battle armour worn by army generals, this character amplifies a sense of military strength, courage and leadership; qualities undoubtedly valued in Chinese culture. These values are echoed later in the dance in a recognisably patriotic tableaux, fists thrust skyward defiantly as the people of China maintain their determination to overcome opposing forces.

It feels as though there has been some sharing of cultures and human experiences between the Sichuan dancers and choreographers Sara Brodie and her assistant Ross McCormack. A further exchange between the two, as I read the work, would have been in terms of choreographic process. The dancers, clearly used to a more traditional choreographer-centred way of working, have experienced opportunities to contribute to the choreography. They also have wonderful technical range and facility, and their emotional evocations are heartfelt, having experienced the devastation of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that killed 78,000 people. A work of one and a quarter hours that takes on an epic theme, however, needs more than dancers who commit fully and have an impressive range of dance vocabularies including ballet, tai chi and martial art gymnastic feats.

Threatening, shifting tectonic plates push their way down the stage diagonally, and there is a humorous rendition of ‘instructions of what to do in an earthquake'. Informative projections, duets, trios, contact work, pas de deux, unisons and canons add to the multiple layers. Recognisable contemporary dance vocabulary provides a clear lens on the aesthetic.  Once the order of everyday life is devastated by loss of mobile phone coverage and darkness, the dancers walk back and forth relentlessly registering human responses of upheaval, loss, comfort, numbness, disorientation, panic, numbness, concern, solace in tai chi routine, numbness and devastation. The mobile phones seem to have uber significance, and it is obviously such a relief when the cell coverage returns.

Aftershocks continue, people keep going in the face of endless adversity, and the dancing goes on. A crashing section of martial arts pyrotechnics hits a highlight in an obvious way. As the bell tolls, the final ending is mercilessly sad. The musical scores by Gareth Farr and Gao Ping provide substantial framing and shifting moods. The dancing follows emotion for emotion and becomes predictable.

On the whole this work would benefit from some major editing.

In no way do I wish to belittle the horrendous devastation, loss and human suffering caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and tornados, however making dances about them is always going to require a certain intensity of interrogation, critical reflection and insight that I feel did not emerge in Fault Lines.