Nelson Arts Festival
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 Theatre Royal, Nelson 16 Oct 2013
Reviewed by Anna Bate, 17 Oct 2013
Christchurch born director/choreographer, Sara Brodie and the Sichuan based Leshan Song & Dance Troupe create a carefully paced expressive dance work that is conceptually driven through their shared experiences of recent earthquakes (Sichuan, 2008 & Christchurch, 2011). At the nd of a New Zealand tour, it has reached Nelson where it is well received.
The choreography has a modern dance aesthetic and organically slips and slides between emotive scenes that both metaphorically and literally allude to the aftermath of a quake. Scenes that resonate most clearly with the work’s intentions include a repetitive low level staccato crab crawl, successfully seducing the audience into a contemplative state as bodies tensely and methodically work their way through a constricted space. Also of note is the use of cell phones as a prop to light/search/care for an otherwise ‘body in the dark’. This creates a quiet, attentive and gentle space, a calm anxiety of sorts, a state of being that one can imagine may be conjured post-trauma. However high leg lifts feel somewhat out of place in this otherwise sensitive scene.
Whilst varying moments such as these drift in and out of the work, the visceral effect of Fault Lines is not as pronounced as one would have expected from the intentions set out in publicity material. The middle sections of the choreography settle a little too easily into a particular pace. Patterns of group ensemble work with highlighted individual and duet dancers fail to maintain their initial opening impact. This is perhaps because the movement material appears to have little connection to the concept of the work as some scenes fall into a more generic modern dance vocabulary. Specifics are so important in a work of such a personal nature.
However, the production elements of Fault Lines support the work to great effect. The musical score by Gareth Farr and Gao Ping is hard to fault, it is aptly mesmerizing; the lighting is unquestionably fitting; and the props add layers of meaning to movement material, as do the projected subtitles (at times). Occasionally the projected material is disjunct from what is occurring on stage, more of a distraction than an addition.
Lastly, the strong cast of eighteen dancers must be acknowledged. Their openness and capacity for movement is striking. They have astonishing skills and their tone and sensitivity is perfect for the work. Ease, precision, and subtlety exudes from their pores and their individuality (or the personal) is, more often than not, clear but understated, even as the cast moves in unison.
I applaud their artistry and thank them for their generosity in what must have been quite a journey from Sichuan via Melbourne to the stages of New Zealand.