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Xiao Xiong Zhang, Not According to Plan, Leigh Warren & Dancers, OzAsia Festival Xiao Xiong Zhang, Not According to Plan, Leigh Warren & Dancers, OzAsia Festival
photo Tony Lewis
This latest work from Leigh Warren & Dancers featured in the OzAsia Festival is visually stunning. And yet that expression does not describe my sensual response to what unfolded on stage. It is not ‘spectacular’ in the sense of establishing distance between spectator and event. The images, colours, shapes, textures, movement, music and light captivated me like the perfume of jasmine or the movement of silk or the sound of rain or the intense colour of tropical vegetation. It is a deeply satisfying sensual work.

The work emerged from collaborations between Adelaide-based choreographer Leigh Warren and lighting designer Geoff Cobham with Cambodian born dance artist Xiao-Xiong Zhang (the “subject of the work”), Malaysian-Australian furniture maker Khai Liew, Australian-Vietnamese fashion designer Alistair Trung and Malaysian writer and musician Jerome Kugan. The production unfolds as a set of evocative images that move and transform. We experience this unfolding as waves of sound, colour, light and movement washing across the stage. These images and waves are responses to the life of Xiao-Xiong who is both observer and participant in the unfolding dance. Other elements include: projections of ink wash drawings and calligraphy by Helen Fuller on a rice paper screen; rich, swelling music drawn from a broad palette of sound; Xiao-Xiong’s recorded voice; billowing and fitted intensely coloured costumes (burgundy, black, green) that reference clothing from various Asian countries; an exquisite landscape of finely turned, wooden furniture initially buried beneath a floor ‘cloth’ textured like handmade paper; and boldly coloured light (electric blue and salmon pink among others) that defines the space, the furniture and the dancers.

Xiao Xiong Zhang, Not According to Plan, Leigh Warren & Dancers, OzAsia Festival Xiao Xiong Zhang, Not According to Plan, Leigh Warren & Dancers, OzAsia Festival
photo Tony Lewis
For so many years now Leigh Warren has trained dancer after dancer. His training and choreography ask the dancer to move seamlessly like water spilling in all spatial dimensions and in relation to each other’s bodies, with legs and spine as articulate as arms. Here the dancing is organised into duets, solos, a trio and final quartet in relation to the figure of Xiao-Xiong, but it converses with costume, music, light, set, projection and image rather than speaking solely according to a physical logic discrete from all other elements. For me, Warren’s choreography is always located between meaning and pure physical eloquence. The four dancers’ gestures, their interactions with Xiao-Xiong and the recorded spoken stories hint at a life lived across a number of countries and the challenges, resolve and pleasures of that life. Meaning lurks but does not dominate and must be felt through the sensuous appreciation of the work in its entirety.


OzAsia Festival, Leigh Warren & Dancers, Not According To Plan, choreographer Leigh Warren, performers Rebecca Jones, Aidan Munn, Yuan-Li Wang, Chien-Wei Wu, Xiao-Xiong Zhang; Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, 20-21 Sept

For background on Anne Thompson, see our contributor profile feature.

This article first appeared as part of RT's online e-dition 20 November, 2013

RealTime issue #118 Dec-Jan 2013 pg. 31

© Anne Thompson; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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