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womadelaide 2012 preview


nothing lost in translation

2012 womadelaide: sivouplait and shantala


Sivouplait Sivouplait
courtesy WOMADelaide
JAPANESE PERFORMERS, SIVOUPLAIT (NOZOMI HORIE AND TAKESHI SHIBASAKI), WILL ADD A DASH OF MAGICAL REALISM TO THE 2012 WOMADELAIDE IN THEIR OPEN AIR PERFORMANCES DIRECT FROM THE STREETS OF TOKYO AND A VARIETY OF INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVALS. I RECENTLY SPOKE WITH NOZOMI THROUGH AN INTERPRETER—DOUBTLESS NOT A LITTLE WAS LOST IN TRANSLATION, BUT NOTHING IS LOST IN THE PAIR’S ELOQUENT MIME WORKS. ALSO IN THIS YEAR’S WOMAD IS SHANTALA SHIVALINGAPPA, A LEADING EXPONENT OF INDIAN CLASSICAL DANCE IN THE KUCHIPUDI TRADITION.

sivouplait

Sivouplait are mime artists presenting prepared pieces with a bit of room for improvisation depending, says Nizomi, on the nature and size of their audience. Each work starts out from a simple (or sometimes outrageous) premise: a couple decide to photograph each other but a fierce wind wreaks havoc on their efforts; two people transform into big-beaked birds that indulge in a comic courtship ritual; two players enact a larger than life tennis game; and the pair conjure an urban spaghetti western. Each performance is carefully paced, whimsical and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. Titles of works and scenes are announced silently using large cards and the soundtrack is provided by a small portable record player. Above all Sivouplait are deft mimes with a finely tuned sense of their audience,

I ask Nozomi about the pair’s training. She says it came from a very good pantomime teacher and that the rest was learnt on the streets where the work was well received and the invitations to festivals began to flow in. As for influences, the press release for the show cites silent movies, manga, animation, dance and physical comedy which are evident in the work (although I’m not sure about the manga). Certainly, their work appears to be very much in the Western mime tradition (which is surprisingly popular in Asia as I witnessed at the Chuncheon International Mime Festival, Korea in May 2009).

Nozomi says that a key influence is the great Japanese filmmaker Yasjiro Ozu because of what his films say about couples whether in his comedies or his dramas. Sivouplait’s press release states, “This curious Japanese couple are always talking about love—yet they never use words.” When I watch Sivouplait in their immaculate tennis whites on video I can’t see many signs of love. But the press release asks insistently, “Is their perfect love dazzling and pristine, or do they encounter the same doubts, troubles and irritations that befall us all in relationships?”

Nozomi explains, “Sometimes in love Japanese don’t express themselves straightaway with, for example, kissing. This fits well with pantomime. Anything is possible—tennis, photography, birds—but love is always there.” So then I pose the question they’re always asked (much laughter), Are Nozomi and Takdeshi a couple? “It’s up to your imagination,” replies Nozomi. “So,” I say, “it is a love story.” More laughter.

Shantala Shivalingappa Shantala Shivalingappa
photo C P Satyajit
shantala shivalingappa

Also performing in WOMADelaide is Shantala Shivalingappa, a major Indian dance artist who also has a career in European performance, having worked with Maurice Bejart, Peter Brook in Hamlet (as Ophelia) and The Tempest (as Miranda), Pina Bausch (O Dido, Néfès, Bamboo Blues, Sacre du Printemps) and Ushio Amagatsu (Ibuki). Born in India, raised in Paris, introduced to Kichipudi traditional dance by her mother and then trained in it back in India, Shivalingappa has subsequently had works created for her by her Indian masters.

Kuchipudi is a classical dance from southern India, emerging in the 15th century and rooted in folk dance. The name is taken from the village where it was assumed to originate, Kuchipudi, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The form is at once abstract and rhythmical while also overtly dramatic with the performer taking on divine roles. Shantala will, for example, evoke Ganga, the goddess of the Ganges River, as well as Shiva the male God of destruction and transformation, in the very same dance. Hand gestures and facial expressions are central to this dramatisation, while live accompanying music is a vital part of Kuchipudi dance.

Save for some YouTube glimpses I’ve not seen Shantala’s internationally praised dancing, but I have witnessed a Kuchipudi performance and been struck by the power, subtlety and sense of drama emanating from a single body. Shantala’s presence would be a coup for any international arts festival and no less so for WOMADdelaide.

The musicians in WOMADelaide invariably display a great deal of theatricality as an inherent part of their music-making, but for something different make sure you seek out Sivouplait and Shantala.


WOMADelaide 2012, March 9-12, www.womadelaide.com.au

RealTime issue #107 Feb-March 2012 pg. 11

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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