OzAsia Dance Review: Not According to Plan

Not According to Plan was a mesmerising performance featuring some incredible talent. The story of Xiao Xiong Zhang, it was a rhythmic adventure told through spectacular interpretive dance.

Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre and Leigh Warren and Dancers
Reviewed 20 September 2013

Not According to Plan is a mesmerising performance featuring some incredible talent. The story of Xiao Xiong Zhang, it is a rhythmic adventure told through spectacular interpretive dance.

Choreographed by Leigh Warren and designed by a talented team including Khai Lew (set), Alistair Trung (garments), Jerome Kugan (music and sound), Geoff Cobham (lighting) and Helen Fuller (visual art), the show is truly beautiful to watch. The simple yet elegant set transforms from a cloth landscape to an elegant modern studio in one easy transition. The projected images of strokes and splatters of paint behind the set makes the show feel like an artwork come to life. Ingenious lighting effects and experimental music create a dramatic, otherworldly atmosphere. When you watch Not According to Plan, you are taken on a mental journey and hypnotised by the skill of the dancers.

The five performers (Rebecca Jones, Aidan Munn, Yuan-Li Wang, Chien-Wei Wu and Xiao Xiong Zhang himself), do the Leigh Warren and Dancers proud. Each movement they make is precise and well practiced yet utterly fluid, almost to the point of looking unnatural. Seeing such talented performers do such incredible things on stage always stuns me. It is amazing that simple (well, pretty complicated really) body movements can convey such a wide range of emotions and inspire such awe in an audience. The performers move exceptionally well together, never missing a beat or getting the way of one another.

The star of the show was, of course, Xiao Xiong Zhang. Born in Cambodia, Xiao Xiong Zhang is a graduate of the Adelaide Centre for Performing Arts. It is obvious from this performance that the praise attributed to him is well deserved. Although he is an older performer, he pulls feats that would put many younger dancers to shame. To hear snippets of his story through documentary style voice-overs only makes us respect him more.

Both the dancing and technical aspects of the performance were superb, apart from a few minor gripes. A few transitions between songs and voice-overs were a tad clunky, and the low-down, front of stage dancing was slightly hard for people at the back to see. These issues, coupled with an almost overbearing amount of smoke at the beginning of the performance, were the only things I could pick out to spoil audience enjoyment.

It is great to see Adelaide embracing the OzAsia Festival as much as it is. Seeing The Space theatre dolled up in a modern Asian style was great, and to see almost every seat in the audience filled must mean something positive. Although there was a bit of a language barrier for the English speaking audience, it didn’t detract from the power of the piece in any way.

Not According to Plan is an inspiring show about overcoming the forces of destiny with impressive technical aspects and jaw-dropping performances by enormously talented dancers.

Reviewed by James Rudd

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 20-21 September
Duration: 1 hour


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