Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

19th Arts Festival sets the scene for innovation and tradition

Posted by Kimberly on February 29, 2008

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
February 29, 2008 (1,334 words)

The 19th Macau Arts Festival is just around the corner, with this year’s festival set to top the previous years, and not just in terms of the budget, which has been announced as being 9.5 million patacas.
At a press conference yesterday to advise of this year’s program, Heidi Ho, President of the Cultural Affairs Bureau (ICM) spoke of the 17 programs, suggesting the festival was “a way to bring different visitors from other countries to Macau.
“It is a platform for cultural exchange,” she added.
This year’s festival seeks to promote the local talents that Macau has to offer, as much as bringing in the overseas talent it is well known for.
As such, two groups, the Little Mountain Arts Association and the Macao Conservatory Dance School, will showcase their performances for the first time.
Ms Ho also spoke of the reasons behind the move of the festival to May, which began last year, from its previous March agenda.
She cited the celebrations of Chinese New Year as the main reason why, suggesting that moving the festival to the later month allowed greater interaction from residents and tourists without taking anything away from the tradition that is Chinese New year.
Asked why the performances were held in so few locations around Macau, Ms Ho said that cultural venues such as Lou Kau mansion had to fit the performance and vice versa, therefore requiring a great deal of consideration.
She said it was not to say that other locations would not be sought out for future festivals but that they had to be a considered choice.
A separate press conference will be announced soon to highlight the program for the outdoor performing arts showcase whose content still needs to be confirmed.

This year’s Arts Festival can be seen as a series of firsts: a 4D amalgamation of theatre, multimedia and projected imagery, Shakespeare’s The Tempest is thrust into the modern age. Meanwhile, Israeli act, The Aluminium Show, will be shown in Asia for the first time, as part of the festival. Then there’s local dance company, The Macao Conservatory Dance School, whose students will be performing as part of the main festival for the first time. Finally, children’s theatre group, Little Mountains Art Association, will be showcasing a performance just for children.
Combine those feats with classical Indian dance, world-famous Chinese musicians, experimental theatre and the heat of flamenco dancing, and the 19th Macao Arts Festival looks set to impress even more so than its predecessors.
Of course, with all the excitement of overseas talent gracing our shores, it’s easy to overlook the home grown talent that Macau is just as well-known for: the Orchestras, the Patois drama group, Doci Papiacam di Macau and the Association of Cantonese Opera and Music, to name a few.
Starting off the whole festival, The Aluminium Show combines movement, dance and visual theatre using silver-coloured industrial materials and special effects. Along with creative mechanics and acrobatic dance, inanimate objects are brought to life within a luminous and reflective world.
Meanwhile, South Korean group Noridan will perform PingPangPong: Noridan Episode 5. the eco-music group uses non-verbal performance and an surrealist fantasy mixing live music, dynamic body movement, dance and circus acts. The tale speaks of desire, being a true essence of man but also a force that deceives and makes slaves of them. The audience witnesses people from all walks of life interacting with children, gods, cyborgs and slave machines, depicting the way people think and behave in modern society.
Classical Indian dancer Pallavi Krishnan will perform a solo act of the Mohiniyattam, literally, the dance of Mohini the enchantress, considered to be one of the most lyrical classical dance styles in India. Krishnan is known for her tremendous efforts to promote and preserve this style as a living tradition. The performance will take place in the Lou Kau Mansion, itself an ode to Macau’s own tradition.
Macao’s Conservatory Dance School will be showcasing choreography by students that have been studying at the School for the past four years. The programme will include a scene from the classic Swan Lake among its own repertoire.
Mexico’s Sensorama will provide a unique experience for audience members, whereby one is required to be blind-folded, with the rest of the sense taking over to compensate, creating an atmosphere that allows one’s imagination to take flight.
Of course, Chinese tradition is never forgotten, with the Wu Opera Troupe from Zhejiang Province providing a varied repertoire retelling the renowned Legend of the White Snake whose mythical tale tells of young peoples’ longing for the freedom to love under the yoke of feudalism.
Featuring colourful performances and Chinese mythological imagery, it is bound to be a feast for the eyes.
Then there’s the retelling of a classic Shakespearean tale of The Tempest, in such a way as to astound audience members. It shows the return of 4D art to the festival, with the likes of creators Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon.
In collaboration with director Denise Guilbault and thanks to virtual technology, spells, visions and poetry come alive to create a previously unimaginable storm, taking in all the senses, not just that of sight.
Then there’s the Nederlands Dans Theater II, an ensemble that continually strives to provide a platform for untrodden initiatives, aimed at gaining the interest of today’s young dancers. Besides ballets by Hans van Manen and Jiri Kylian, several works by young choreographers are also performed.
For the final overseas act, there”s Sangre Flamenca, performed by the Nuevo Ballet Espanol. Envisaging a combination of contemporary dance with the traditon of flamenco, the company explores new possibilities. It was awarded the UP prize for best Spanish and flamenco dance company in 2000 with its directors and founders, Angel Rojas and Carlos Rodriguez awarded the Vila de Madrid Pilar Lopez Prize for best dance interpreters.
Of course, saving the best for last means pointing out the talents of local groups and performers. The Macao Orchestra and the Chinese Orchestra provide their usual high performance pieces, the former, with a snapshot of early 20th century English composers and the latter, with two world premieres by famous Chinese composers. Joining the orchestra will be violin prodigy Li Chuan Yun and celebrated pianist Yin Chengzong.
Then there’s the Patois group, Doci Papiacam di Macau with Sorti Doci (Sweet Luck), a tale set amidst the pervasive fever of casino life. Everything is a game and there is nothing that cannot be wagered. Each year, the group manages to bring forth a play rich in humour and showcasing Macau’s traits.
Macau’s General Association of Chinese Opera and Music, dedicated to preserving the art of Cantonese opera, will showcase The Crossing, a tale set in the mythical period of The Three Kingdoms, when the ingenious mind always prevailed over ruthlessness and where bravery, strength and wit were virtues to be extolled.
Finally, the Little Mountain Arts Association provides entertainment aimed at children, who are guided through the spellbinding world of Prince Dada and Princess Joy. The story tells of an unassuming director preparing for the year’s biggest theatre show. He embarks on a journey of self-discovery, realising how the power of his own actions transcends the supposed emboldening effects of a legendary magical necklace.
Complimenting the indoor performances will be the outdoor performing arts showcase, taking place between May 16 and 18 and May 24 and 25, at Iao Hon Garden, in Macau’s north. The showcase will bring together international and Chinese artists that fall just outside the mainstream.
Tickets for the 19th Macao Arts Festival will become available from March 9 after 10:00am at all Kong Seng Ticketing outlets (+853 2855 5555 in Macau or +852 2380 5083 in Hong Kong). Telephone and online bookings (www.macauticket.com) will be available from 14:00pm on the same day. A variety of discount plans, up to 40 percent are offered, with more details, as well as further information on the festival’s performances, to be found on ICM’s website at www.icm.gov.mo/fam.

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