OzAsia Festival program lands with record number of events

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By Melissa Keogh

Disco dancing Korean grandmothers, acrobatic Shaolin monks and a group of millennial girls in a ‘fishbowl dormitory’ are among highlights of the 2018 OzAsia Festival program launched this week.

The 12th annual OzAsia Festival, Australia’s only international festival celebrating contemporary art from Asia, will feature five world premieres and 20 Australian premieres from October 25 – November 11.

OzAsia Festival director Joseph Mitchell says the level of talent and exclusivity in the event was a testament to Adelaide as the festival capital of Australia.

“I think it’s just another example of Adelaide being much more ahead of the game, innovative and aware of the role and responsibility of art and culture,” says Joseph, who moved in 2015 to Adelaide from Toronto, Canada, to take on the director’s role.

“I’ve always felt that South Australia has been a bit more innovative and leading the way.”

A record number of 60 events will unfold at various venues, featuring works from 817 artists from countries including Japan, Singapore, China, India, Malaysia, Korea, The Philippines, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

Hundreds of SA and interstate artists will also be involved, while the event organisers are hoping for visitor attendances to hit a record 200,000 people.

A scene from Here is the message you asked for… don’t tell anyone else 😉

Joseph says one of the most appealing aspects of OzAsia is the artists’ ability to create truly unique projects that set apart from theatre traditions.

One of the highlight performances is Sun Xiaoxing’s Here is the message you asked for… don’t tell anyone else ;), featuring a group of millennial girls in a transparent bedroom set.

Audience members can communicate on their mobile phones with the performers through popular Chinese social media app WeChat.

“The audience can use WeChat and interact with these girls who are essentially living their lives in their bedrooms, they’re playing computer games, using social media, drinking Coca-Cola, dressing up in cosplay and living their own identity,” Joseph says.

“They don’t talk to you, there’s no script and there’s no narrative, you watch this fishbowl performance installation which has live music … and the only way you can get a grasp on it is to communicate through WeChat.

“It completely rewrites the traditional theatre experience. It’s a great example of what OzAsia is.”

Dancing Grandmothers. Photo by Eunji Park.

Prolific Korean choreographer Eun-Me Ahn’s Dancing Grandmothers is another highlight, featuring real life Korean grandmothers grooving under disco balls.

Eun-Me Ahn travelled her native country to meet the everyday women who founded modern Korea and to film them dancing in their villages.

Along with a screening of the video, a small group of the grandmothers themselves will hit the stage of Adelaide’s Dunstan Playhouse.

Other inspiring pieces include award-winning choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and his masterpiece Sutra.

The critically acclaimed acrobatic piece features Cherkaoui and 19 Shaolin monks.

The festival’s most highly attended event, is the Moon Lantern Parade on October 27 featuring a parade of 40 large handmade lanterns including a 40m-long Hong Kong dragon.

OzAsia Festival artistic director Joseph Mitchell.

Visitors can also eat their way around Asia at the Lucky Dumpling Market on the Adelaide Riverbank lawn every night except Mondays.

Orginally from Newcastle, Joseph came to Adelaide after living in Toronto, Canada, where he lead multi-arts event the Luminato Festival.

He was also the executive producer of the Brisbane Festival.

“The Brisbane Festival and OzAsia ran at the same time so we’d shared work before and that’s when I became aware of OzAsia,” he says.

“I thought it was just so refreshingly different.

“There is no other festival in this country that operates annual and focusses on contemporary art and culture in Asia.”

Check out the full program here.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s masterpiece Sutra.

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