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Dancing grandmas to show their moves at OzAsia


A Korean performance with dancing grandmas and glitter balls and a 21st-century Japanese opera incorporating Manga are among several shows revealed in a sneak peek at the OzAsia Festival’s biggest program yet.

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While the full program for the October 25 – November 11 festival won’t be released until next month, director Joseph Mitchell says he wanted to give people an early taste of what is in store.

Dancing Grandmothers, a work by Korean choreographer Eun-Me Ahn, is a colourful contemporary performance featuring 10 professional dancers alongside 10 “everyday grandmothers”.

Mitchell says Ahn, who was an associate of the legendary dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, was inspired by the generation of women who lived through a period of great upheaval in Korea, including war, and technological and social change.

“Many of those women, who are now grandmothers, are still in their villages.

“She went around with a video camera and, because she’s a choreographer, she wanted to get a sense of how do these women express themselves in joy and happiness – so she basically documented all these grandmas dancing.”

Ahn and her company created Dancing Grandmothers as kind of homage to the women, and some of the wonderful footage she captured in the villages is projected on stage during the show (see a short video trailer below and an extended version here).

Mitchell says the performance includes “70s hybrid disco pop – a fusion of Korean and cheesy western music”, with a set featuring colourful lighting and glitter balls.

“Then at the end the public is invited up to dance with them in a kind of techno rave.

“So it’s really a celebration of the wonder of dance and how it unites us all and makes us happy …. this is one of the beautiful pieces of contemporary dance that really cuts through to all audiences.”

Also revealed today as part of the 2018 OzAsia program are 21st-century Japanese opera War Sum Up and Chinese director Stan Lai’s classic play Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, alongside two visual arts highlights: installations by contemporary Japanese artists Ryoji Ikeda and Chiharu Shiota.

Mitchells says War Sum Up is a fitting follow-on from the Japanese vocaloid opera The End, a highlight of last year’s program. Described as an “audio-visual requiem on destruction and loss”, it is presented by Hotel Pro Forma and features classical music infused with chamber pop and electronica.

The work draws on ancient Japanese texts from Noh Theater to tell the story of a soldier, a warrior and a spy, is sung by the Latvian Radio Choir, and incorporates contemporary Manga animation and video projection.

“So it’s got this sense of both the ancient and the highly modern from Japanese culture,” Mitchell says.

Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land was first produced in 1986 and is considered the first contemporary play in China. It has never previously been presented in Australia, and Lai will be in Adelaide for the OzAsia performances.

The play tells the story of two very different drama troupes who are mistakenly booked to use the same theatre space.

“It’s hilarious but also very poignant and moving as well,” Mitchell says. “It’s just a really wonderful experience.

“I’ve seen it several times in two different cities, and it still stands up as a great solid piece of modern theatre.

“This is the first time a work by Stan Lai has been invited to Australia so it’s a real coup – I think a lot of the broader Chinese community will be really excited to see it.”

The 2018 OzAsia Festival will begin around a month later than usual, to take advantage of slightly warmer temperatures and daylight saving for the Lucky Dumpling Market and outdoor festival hub in Elder Park.

The always-popular Moon Lantern Parade will take place in Elder Park on October 27. This year there will also be a three-day Jaipur Literature Festival on the closing weekend of the festival, with free talks and readings from international and local writers of fiction, poetry and non-fiction.

The full OzAsia program will be released on August 14.

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