Review: Pearl River Delta


Pearl River Delta, presented as part of the Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance, Brisbane, opens with an iteration of the full length ‘Point One’, choreographed by China’s up and coming Li Pian and Tan Yian Bo, with the final three parts choreographed by Macau dance companies Stella & Artists and Max Dance Hall. It features six dancers, and runs for roughly an hour.

Pearl River Delta 1

The Supercell write up says Pearl River Delta is ‘virtuous and poetic’, ‘highly fluid and dynamic’, but what the audience is offered stretches deeper.

Presented at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, on a relaxed Thursday night in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, this dance transports through several eras, resonating the interplay of relationships, both in explicit detail, and implicit subtleties. It’s a layered and complex tale that unfolds throughout four ‘segments’, each as unique and significant to its storyline as the last.

Pearl River Delta 2The first is somewhat ‘traditional’: two dancers in old style costume, one red, one black, their movements complementing one another, fluid together, and then fluid while breaking away. Beautiful, flowing, mesmerising.

It’s perfectly choreographed. And it works as a perfect prelude, impacting the unexpected tone of the second segment, with its bizarre costumes, music, sounds and props.

A single performer, dressed in a renaissance-style shirt and boxer shorts, performs around a table with its underside lit by a fluorescent light. Audience members could be heard uttering words like ‘weird’, as animal noises blared above classical music, with the sound of fighter jet engines breaking through. It offers humour, but also darkness. It is in parts, almost tribal. And again, this sets the mood for the following segment, the third, which plays out in mostly silence.

Pearl River Delta 3A single performer moves onto the stage. Her movements slow, drawn out, as she flips down onto her hands, holding for minutes, before flipping over into an arch. It’s still silent. She stands, pausing for what seems like too long, as audience members appear to grasp for significance, tilting their heads, scrunching their eyebrows, whispering things like ‘I don’t really get it’, as the series of movements repeats over and over. This segment edged forward at a sloth-like speed. Anticipation for some kind of action is drawn out, almost unreasonably, until finally, gradual momentum builds, and then relief, as flowing movement and music returns.

Retrospectively, the third segment finds its context, and it becomes apparent as a purposefully and well placed piece, working to impact and intensity the final, which plays out in a fast paced flurry.

Pearl River Delta 4Two contemporary news readers, dressed in trench coats and sunglasses, read from scripts, moving robotically. Then, they fall into human motion.  It’s busy and loud, and rich in multitudes meaning. Props, lighting, music, and movement all work toward a powerful finale. It doesn’t disappoint.
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Pearl River Delta, the Point One Excerpt, expresses engaging plot points through well-choreographed segments. It’s a wonderful addition to the Supercell Festival, and overall, worth heading out on a Thursday night for.

Magdalene H

Author: Magdalene H

Magdalene is Romanian-Vietnamese, grew up in Australia, and is currently living on the Arabian Peninsula. She holds a Bachelor of Professional Communication, with a major in Journalism, and is undertaking post graduate studies in Business, with a double specialization in International Business and Professional Communication. Magdalene also enjoys curating and contributing to several blogs, while navigating expatriatism, and parenting in the third-culture.