OzAsia Festival Review: Specific Places Need Specific Dances entertains as it breaks down cultural barriers

When strangers meet, they unconsciously do a “dance”, a subliminal meeting of minds using body language. Darlane Litaay and Tian Rotteveel explore this idea in their dance piece Specific Places Need Specific Dances, which this week is part of the OzAsia Festival in Adelaide.

Indonesian native Litaay met Dutch / German Rottveel in Papua New Guinea where the idea for this performance was born. By inviting each other to interpret their respective cultures through dance, each learns more about each other and themselves.

The performance begins with a mobile television screen showing images of the two in various places creating ideas for the act. The two performers come on stage and it becomes almost Godot-like as each plays a song from their culture and the other interprets. Imagine Swan Lake meeting the Brolga dance. This moment of uncertainty and tension changes with the introduction of a driving beat from a large bass speaker that is influenced by the sounds and breath of the two.

Litaay has a bag of adornments, which he carefully lays out while Rotteveel creates multidimensional sounds with nothing more than two shakers and the feedback from the speaker. Gradually he adorns himself while undressing and invites Rotteveel to do the same. Part of the dress is the Papuan Koteka, a penis sheath made from dried gourds. The method of attaching these is an eye opener in itself.

The performance is like watching two mates learning more about each other and their cultures. There is a constant feeling of fun. The electronic music is shaped and influenced by traditional native totems. A plastic sheet is used to distort feedback of a native inspired soundtrack is an inspired moment.

Rotteveel reads a letter to the audience near the end of the performance, which puts into perspective the place of the theatre; does it belong to the state, the performer, or the audience? At the end of the show, the two answer a short Q&A session.

Specific Places Need Specific Dances is an entertaining and amusing way of opening dialogue about the role of music and dance in breaking down cultural barriers.

The final performance is tonight. Details can be found here

The reviewer attended the performance on 27th September. Image credit: Indonesia Dance Festival.