In contrast to this year’s Adelaide Festival of Arts’ meagre dance offering, OzAsia is giving us a welcome array of choices. No less than seven shows significantly include dance.
If you can get to only one dance performance in OzAsia, you could probably do no better than Play. The late Pina Bausch, whose company’s 1982 Adelaide Festival performances changed Australian ideas on modern dance, continues to be a commanding influence worldwide. Bausch invited choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Indian dancer Shantala Shivalingappa to collaborate, and Play, which premiered in 2009, was the result. The roles people play, in the theatre and in life, the games a man and a woman play – maybe chess, maybe seduction – are the materials for a collision between Indian Kuchipudi and Western dance styles, but Play is much more than that. Chief among the opening night’s big attractions is Eko Supriyanto’s Cry Jailolo. Currently the leading Indonesian choreographer, Supriyanto literally leapt to fame as a dancer in Madonna’s 2001 Drowned World tour – the title is a nice fit with Jailolo, which takes us under water. Jailolo is a port town on a spice island with a pristine environment, but where fisherman used dynamite to make their catch, destroying the fish habitat of coral. Supriyanto’s dance work is about this underwater world’s destruction and fish seeking their home. (Now there’s a year’s gaol for killing a shark, and five years for using dynamite.) The young male dancers, all concerned about climate change, are natural divers; they had to persuade their fearful choreographer to take the plunge. When he did wearing equipment, as he continues to do, he discovered a world far more beautiful than the world above. From the environment to harder politics. A bigger production, The Streets, comes from Teater Garasi (Garage Theatre, named after a shed used for student gatherings) founded by Yudi Ahmad Tajudin at Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University in 1993. Tajudi, one of the young guns of Indonesian theatre, was invited to Japan’s Shizuoka Spring Festival in 2010 and awarded a prestigious prize in Amsterdam in 2013. The Streets is a dance theatre enquiry into contemporary socio-political Indonesian life. The company is a collective – artists, writers, dancers, actors, musicians – that in this piece sees the street “as a display of the life of contestation of the conflicts” of modern existence. The group began research in 2007, interested in the ways life had developed since the watershed elections of 1987, growing it further since its 2010 Japanese visit. Two of the original performers and the musicians – “recorded sound doesn’t work for the production,” says Tajudin – are coming to Adelaide, and new situations have been included. Uncompromising, The Streets promises a certain amount of chaos, along with grittiness, humour and exhilaration. The company particularly attracts young audiences, but this is clearly a production that will make audiences think differently about Indonesia. Australia’s contribution this year comes from former ADT dancer Kyle Page, now artistic director of Townsville’s DanceNorth. When a company dancer seven years ago, he worked with visiting Japanese choreographer Ikuyo Kuroda who had founded her own group, Batik, in 2002. Since 2008, Page has been to Japan six times and last June worked intensively on a collaborative piece, Spectra, which is coming to OzAsia. Classically trained, Kuroda had an epiphany when she went to London and discovered modern dance; she joined a contemporary company on returning to Japan and after a workshop with Kim Itoh, who had been reinventing Butoh, she absorbed that style into her own work. Page tells me that Spectra is “about the nature of causality”, and “explores the way one thing leads to another – how we can think of going into the future, sowing seeds of the future in what we’re doing now”. He is thrilled that one of Japan’s leading international installation designers, Tatsuo Miyojima, who has worked with brilliant British choreographer Wayne McGregor, came on board after seeing early stages of Spectra in Tokyo, with its four Australian and two Japanese dancers. Speaking on Radio Adelaide recently, Page says he is “passionate about blending the artistic vibrancy of both countries and both cultures. There’s a very distinctive Australian specific contemporary style with virtuosic floor tumbling and partnering work. The Japanese don’t do any partnering so it’s a very interesting exercise for them do some with us.” Interesting, even startling, too for some of the audience at a Tokyo work-in-progress showing last year. More Japanese will be seeing Spectra next year, when it tours three festivals beyond the capital. Traditional Indonesian dance appears all too briefly this time round, with two one-off performances. In the ancient Topeng Cirebon from West Java, the dancers wear masks made of special soft wood. Performances – frequently presentations of myths – are often given at festivals, accompanied by gamela orchestras. Sacred Sita is a dance-drama following Prince Rama’s journey to rescue his wife Sita from the dastardly Ravana, who happens to be a king with 10 heads. Puppetry as well as dance and music by Adelaide’s Gamelan Sekar Laras orchestra will guide you, and the cast, on the quest. And for a stimulating, hang-on-to-your-seatbelts change, Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker looks like something to go for. All part of the rich variety of OzAsia 2015. OzAsia Festival Thursday, September 24 to Sunday, October 4 adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au/ozasia-festival