01 September, 2011

Preview: Contemporary Dance

Photo: cie ea sola
By Emma Caldwell
The final week of Festival 2011 sees two contemporary dance productions arrive in Edinburgh - Ea Sola’s Drought and Rain (re-creation 2011) and Shen Wei’s Re- (I, II, III) / The Triptych.
Ea Sola is a French Vietnamese choreographer and Drought and Rain explores consciousness, historical memory and the human cost of the Vietnam War. The piece is hard to define as dance because there is little movement, yet it cannot be called theatre because nobody speaks. This is performance art with cultural importance.
The piece was first performed in 1995 and featured a cast of elderly women who were once dancers in their youth. Because of the outbreak of war, they had to abandon their art and pick up guns to help fight for their country, only returning to dance when Ea Sola approached them to perform.
The incarnation of Drought and Rain performed at the Festival is a recreation of the original work. Many of the performers from the 1995 production are now too elderly to take part and several have passed away. So, although the work will still explore the same themes as the original, it features younger women with different memories of the war. These women did not fight; instead they consoled injured soldiers and sang to them at the front.
Drought and Rain promises deep insight into the history and sufferings of Vietnam, and demonstrates that although we all suffer, we can all learn to forgive.
Shen Wei’s Re-Triptych is a three-part contemporary dance piece which takes the audience on a journey through Tibet, Cambodia and China. After spending time travelling along the Silk Road, New York-based Chinese choreographer Shen Wei, drew inspiration from his experiences and created works telling stories of spiritual and geographical homecoming.
The first part, Re- (I), features traditional Tibetan chants and a giant mandala made of confetti. During the piece the mandala will be slowly and deliberately destroyed by the dancers, resulting in an ever-changing, unique visual spectacle. Festival audiences are offered the chance to become part of this performance by donating to the Confetti Mandala Appeal, which will support not only this production but the Edinburgh International Festival for years to come.
Re- (II) was inspired by Cambodia and includes indigenous folk music in its soundtrack. The influence of the country’s surroundings can be seen in the dancers’ movements as they recreate an atmospheric world of twisted knotted banyan trees and lost temples.
The final section, Re- (III) recalls Shen Wei’s home country, China, celebrating its vast and rich cultural history as well as looking forward to its place in the 21st-century and the future. This part features a score by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang, with ‘found music’ including recorded voices, folk music and environmental sounds, collected by Shen Wei from his travels. The electronic, contemporary soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to the dancers’ movements, which fizz with a frenetic energy and perfectly conjure up a buzzing and busy modern-day China.
Both of these original contemporary works promise to take us on a journey of discovery, interpreting unique cultures through movement and music and offering audiences a new perspective on the human condition.
Thursday 1 – Saturday 3 September
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Book now at eif.co.uk/drought
Re- (I, II, III) / The Triptych
Shen Wei Dance Arts
Thursday 1 – Saturday 3 September
The Edinburgh Playhouse
Book now at eif.co.uk/retriptych
The Edinburgh International Festival runs from 12 August – 4 September. Browse and book online at eif.co.uk or call 0131 473 2000.

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