Island dance war and Irish opera

1 September 2015 Artistic Director's Blog

Noumea is home to the Centre Culturel Tjibaou. It is the go-to place for Kanak culture. The centre has a collection of traditional and contemporary Kanak and Pacific art, a fantastic 400 seat theatre with a stage suitable for dance of any scale, and is set in an expansive tropical garden. The Centre was designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano and is Pacific architectural destination.

Last weekend I was luckily invited to the Festival Waan Danse in Noumea to see some new New Caledonian work and meet with some of the island’s artists. A lot of my time was spent at Tjibaou.

Downtown, an old cinema, the Rex, has been converted by the city into a youth arts centre which was hosting a Dance War by local krumping hip-hoppers. If there is such a thing. The line between the two seems to me pretty blurred. So much energy. It was hot and humid inside and smelled like a gym locker room. The krumping hip-hoppers had sweat running down their limbs, their shirts were plastered to their skin, and were gulping down cans of sponsored soft drink.

There was a great difference between the gymnastics of the teenage warriors and the older dudes who have been doing it for a few years. The young men don’t spin on their heads the way the teenagers do, sticking to the aggressive elbow pumping and body krumping style, while the couple of young women who I saw, had developed far more interesting, though not as aggressive, movements. In any case, the Rex was a great place for the krumping and hip-hop crowd to hang-out on a very quiet afternoon in Noumea Centre-ville.

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Edinburgh Festival is a thing that you sort of have to do as a Festival Director. Even if the Fringe is mostly comedy and a lot of poor-quality work, there are always gems to be found and usually a couple of standouts in the International Festival program. This year, for me, it was the Irish opera The Last Hotel by Donnacha Dennehy with a libretto by renowned Irish playwright Enda Walsh. Opera singers who can act, words that were poetry and a score with lots of mixed influences but a lot of minimalism. It was terrific. I also saw a great exhibition of the work of photographer David Bailey.

I have always had mixed feelings about Edinburgh. It seems that the experience of being there is sometimes more important than its content but it’s a great place to meet up with other directors, producers and artists from around the world.

This is the part of the biennial cycle to be talking to our Tasmanian artists about their ideas and what belongs in our next Ten Days on the Island Festival program. There are some really exciting things planned from our artists that will make a wonderful counterpoint to the three or four international companies we hope to bring here in 2017. In particular I am really interested in work that has been proposed that will grow from communities around the island, in which professional artists work with local artists to produce work which would only be possible in a festival. Jane Deeth’s Site of Love and Neglect, which has been funded by the Australia Council, is one such project which will be seen in various places right around Tasmania, will involve communities, Tasmanian and International Artists and be of great interest to anyone who loves visual creativity.

David Malacari
Artistic Director

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