A remarkable collaboration between unexpected creative forces led to the conception of Not According to Plan and the OzAsia headliner did not disappoint.
Based on the life of Cambodian-born, Australia-based dancer and choreographer Xiao-Xiong Zhang, the performance was choreographed by Leigh Warren with set design by Khai Liew, costumes by Sydney-based designer Alistair Trung and soundscape by Jerome Kugan. In the intimacy of the Festival Centre’s Space Theatre an enthralled crowd watched an elegant production that epitomised restrained beauty. Light fades and Zhang watches over two dancers while perched upon a white plastic-covered peak (later revealed to be one of Liew’s constructions). The dancers are shrouded in transparent cloth and flit about with one another as they slowly progressed across the stage, their costumes momentarily revealing their bodies before concealing them once more. It was the start of a performance of restrained beauty. Although a diverse cross-cultural collaboration, the story of conflicting cultures, alienation and choosing to follow your own creative desires is one which is also applicable to Liew, Trung and Kugan’s own journeys. The performance featured four dancers – Adelaide locals Aidan Munn and Rebecca Jones alongside Zhang’s Taiwanese protégés Yuan-Li Wang and Chien-Wei Wu – as well as Zhang himself. Though all were graceful, Wang and Wu perhaps slightly better suited the choreography, dancing it with natural grace and gentle fluidity. Zhang himself was a continual presence – switching between observing and interacting with the dancers. Each dancer established their own tangible connection with the acclaimed performer and choreographer. The introspective production ended tenderly with Zhang watching over the four other dancers. Trung designed many costumes for the hour-long performance and all added to the refined grace of the dancers’ movement. The music veered from haphazard, cacophony-like sounds to traditional string arrangements intercepted by recordings of Zhang recounting stories and poetry. Liew, Trung and Kugan sat side-by-side in the audience and stood to applaud as Warren scampered down to the stage to acknowledge the audience’s enthusiastic recognition. With only three performances, this dance offering was fleeting yet prolific.