Drought and Rain

Drought and Rain
By Ea Sola. Arts Centre Melbourne. 20-22 September, 2012

Drought and Rain sees French-Vietnamese choreographer Ea Sola re-create her original 1995 dance piece, this time with a new ensemble of extraordinary Vietnamese women performing. Sola’s 1995 version explored the human costs of the war with America, and her performers were women who had been part of their country’s resistance movement. This new group of younger women had also lived through that war but their role was not to carry a gun. They sang to comfort the soldiers.

What is striking from the outset is the black and white set and costumes, the exquisite traditional music played by musicians who sit at each side of the stage, and the strong presence of the 12 women. Sola’s choreography is spare, and it’s almost as though the women move in slow motion, so graceful are their movements. While the dancing doesn’t have the spinning, jumping and twirling that many people love to see on stage, it still has an incredible energy to it. A highlight is an extended sequence where the women move frenetically towards, and away from, the audience, holding black and white photos of, presumably, their loved ones. The expressions on the women’s faces and their urgent actions demand that their stories be heard and remembered.

The dance is structured on a story of the Sun and Rain, burning and flooding the land, rather than working together in harmony. Three singers – Doan Thanh Binh (The Rain), Dang Thach Le (The Sun), and Doan Thi Ket (The Prologue) – lead the performers through this tale. For many in the audience, this will be a rare opportunity to hear traditional Vietnamese music and singing. Surtitles make sure that the meaning isn’t lost, though the effect is stunning even without a translation.

Drought and Rainis part of the Arts Centre Melbourne’s Kenneth Myer Asian Theatre Series, to give local audiences a greater appreciation for the culture of our geographic neighbours. This production will leave you hungry for more Vietnamese stories, dance and music, and leave you wondering why you hadn’t gone searching for it much earlier.

Sara Bannister

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