In Lieu – OzAsia Festival 2011


Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed Tuesday 6th September 2011

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: Ended
Duration: 70min

The St. Aloysius College student gamelan group playing in the Space foyer provided an appropriate and pleasant introduction to the evening, playing traditional music with a full gamelan orchestra, including drums. This enthusiastic group was a nice added bonus to the evening.

This performance was a sequence of short sections that added up to a progression of ideas exploring the experience of being connected to two cultures. Australian born director, choreographer and performer, Ade Suharto, studied dance at the University of Adelaide but also studied the classical Javanese dance form, tari putri, in Solo, Indonesia. This performance blended both dance forms, drawing heavily on traditional Javanese dance but expanding the repertoire through the influence of contemporary western dance.

Suharto enlisted composer, David Kotlowy, to write all of the music for this work, as well as acting as musical director and musician, playing shakahachi in some sections. He has also been the composer-in-residence for two gamelan orchestras based in Osaka so was the natural choice for this project.

Beginning with an 'overture' by the orchestra, Gamelan in Situ, in which we first hear Kotlowy's minimal approach to writing for this ensemble, we then see the work of Mawarini, a shadow puppeteer, again drawing on a traditional Indonesian art form reinvented through the impact of modern, more abstract ideas, but maintaining the delicacy of the traditional forms. This too was accompanied by Gamelan in Situ.

Finally we see Ade Suharto in the next two sections, firstly in shadow, with Mawarini helping her to finish dressing in traditional garb by adding the sampur, a scarf around the waist, and then, to a recording of a string quartet replacing the gamelan group for this one section, introducing her distinct blend of Javanese and modern styles. David Gadsden's subtle lighting, on Justine Shih Pearson's minimal set, was an important part of this performance, adding light, shade and various patterned areas to create different moods.

The rest of the performance was a succession of gamelan pieces, more of Mawarini's shadow puppetry, and dance pieces in which Suharto was accompanied by either gamelan or by Kotlowy on shakuhachi. His playing was filled with emotion, adding much to the quietest sections of the dance. With each dance section Suharto slowly changed from traditional dress to casual modern western clothing and, at the same time, showed progressively more influence of western movements on the traditional dance forms.

Suharto exhibits all of the traits that we have come to expect of Javanese dance, performing with enormous control, right down to the very fingertips. Filled with style, graceful movement, making her costume seems to move of its own accord and appearing to almost float across the floor, Suharto then extends this by adding western movement, yet that too is refined by its exposure to the Javanese influence.

This fascinating and unique performance epitomises what the OzAsia Festival is all about, and demonstrates the importance of this Festival in enabling such work be developed. All those involved are to be commended for producing suck a remarkable piece.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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