Fault Lines

Aurora Centre, Burnside, Christchurch

19/09/2013 - 21/09/2013

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

10/10/2013 - 10/10/2013

Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

16/10/2013 - 16/10/2013

Christchurch Arts Festival 2013

Nelson Arts Festival 2013

Production Details

When the shaking stops what’s left? Fault Lines exposes the intimate human response to natural disaster.

Led by Christchurch locals; director Sara Brodie and designer Mark McEntyre and created with the dancers of the Leshan Dance Company of southern China who experienced the devastating Sichuan quake of 2008, Fault Lines offers a private view of what it is to survive in the aftermath of a quake.

Hauntingly beautiful and revealing the strange, sometimes humorous and fundamental way an earthquake affects those remaining – a rare chance to witness a stirring tribute to the resilience of the human spirit.

Featuring original music by Gareth Farr and Gao Ping recorded by the CSO. Fault Lines had its world premiere at Melbourne Festival in October 2012.

Fault Lines is supported by the Ministry of Culture of China in Beijing and Leshan Muncipal Government of Sichuan Provincial Government.

Presented by Melbourne Festival and Christchurch Arts Festival in Association with Playking Foundation. 

Presented by Tempo Dance Festival 2013 

Fault Lines is co presented by Tempo Dance Festival and Auckland Arts Festival, Nelson Arts Festival, and proudly supported by Pacific Rose Motel.


Leshan Song & Dance Troupe

Founded in 1959, this troupe is nurtured by the rich culture of their home region – an area famed for its history and natural heritage.  As well as performing widely  within China, the company has also toured extensively internationally.  Seven of the dancers’ families were in the areas worst-hit by the 2008 earthquake and  these performers bring a first-hand experience with the complex emotions such tragedies invoke.

Dancers from the Leshan Song and Dance Troupe : 

Meng Dan, Zhang Hao, Deng Linxun, Jiang Lu, Peng
Miaomiao, Peng Rui, Wang Siyang, Wang Sizhu, Liu
Wei, Aluo Weiqi, Liu Xianxian, Xie Xingfei, Wang Xue,
 Zhang Yan, Xu Yi, Huang Yongxiang, Mu Yuhong, Zhang Meishuang, Yang Lingshuang.

Translators Jan MacLeod & Jane Zheng

A calm anxiety

Review by Anna Bate 17th Oct 2013

Christchurch born director/choreographer, Sara Brodie and the Sichuan based Leshan Song & Dance Troupe create a carefully paced expressive dance work that is conceptually driven through their shared experiences of recent earthquakes (Sichuan, 2008 & Christchurch, 2011).  At the nd of a New Zealand tour, it has reached Nelson where it is well received.   

The choreography has a modern dance aesthetic and organically slips and slides between emotive scenes that both metaphorically and literally allude to the aftermath of a quake. Scenes that resonate most clearly with the work’s intentions include a repetitive low level staccato crab crawl, successfully seducing the audience into a contemplative state as bodies tensely and methodically work their way through a constricted space. Also of note is the use of cell phones as a prop to light/search/care for an otherwise ‘body in the dark’. This creates a quiet, attentive and gentle space, a calm anxiety of sorts, a state of being that one can imagine may be conjured post-trauma. However high leg lifts feel somewhat out of place in this otherwise sensitive scene.

Whilst varying moments such as these drift in and out of the work, the visceral effect of Fault Lines is not as pronounced as one would have expected from the intentions set out in publicity material. The middle sections of the choreography settle a little too easily into a particular pace. Patterns of group ensemble work with highlighted individual and duet dancers fail to maintain their initial opening impact. This is perhaps because the movement material appears to have little connection to the concept of the work as some scenes fall into a more generic modern dance vocabulary. Specifics are so important in a work of such a personal nature.

However, the production elements of Fault Lines support the work to great effect. The musical score by Gareth Farr and Gao Ping is hard to fault, it is aptly mesmerizing; the lighting is unquestionably fitting; and the props add layers of meaning to movement material, as do the projected subtitles (at times). Occasionally the projected material is disjunct from what is occurring on stage, more of a distraction than an addition.

Lastly, the strong cast of eighteen dancers must be acknowledged. Their openness and capacity for movement is striking. They have astonishing skills and their tone and sensitivity is perfect for the work. Ease, precision, and subtlety exudes from their pores and their individuality (or the personal) is, more often than not, clear but understated, even as the cast moves in unison.

I applaud their artistry and thank them for their generosity in what must have been quite a journey from Sichuan via Melbourne to the stages of New Zealand.



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Epic adversity

Review by Dr Linda Ashley 11th Oct 2013

Choreographies that bravely take on major natural disasters bring with them a need for a certain rigor and depth of contemplation. Opening with the pieces of mahjong as a microcosm of the pending catastrophe, being a game requiring considerable skill, strategic thought and chance not unlike dance, choreography and how humans can respond under extreme duress, is a clever device. Dai kow, one of the largest costumes in Chinese opera has been generously included. Signifying the battle armour worn by army generals, this character amplifies a sense of military strength, courage and leadership; qualities undoubtedly valued in Chinese culture. These values are echoed later in the dance in a recognisably patriotic tableaux, fists thrust skyward defiantly as the people of China maintain their determination to overcome opposing forces.

It feels as though there has been some sharing of cultures and human experiences between the Sichuan dancers and choreographers Sara Brodie and her assistant Ross McCormack. A further exchange between the two, as I read the work, would have been in terms of choreographic process. The dancers, clearly used to a more traditional choreographer-centred way of working, have experienced opportunities to contribute to the choreography. They also have wonderful technical range and facility, and their emotional evocations are heartfelt, having experienced the devastation of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that killed 78,000 people. A work of one and a quarter hours that takes on an epic theme, however, needs more than dancers who commit fully and have an impressive range of dance vocabularies including ballet, tai chi and martial art gymnastic feats.

Threatening, shifting tectonic plates push their way down the stage diagonally, and there is a humorous rendition of ‘instructions of what to do in an earthquake’. Informative projections, duets, trios, contact work, pas de deux, unisons and canons add to the multiple layers. Recognisable contemporary dance vocabulary provides a clear lens on the aesthetic.  Once the order of everyday life is devastated by loss of mobile phone coverage and darkness, the dancers walk back and forth relentlessly registering human responses of upheaval, loss, comfort, numbness, disorientation, panic, numbness, concern, solace in tai chi routine, numbness and devastation. The mobile phones seem to have uber significance, and it is obviously such a relief when the cell coverage returns.

Aftershocks continue, people keep going in the face of endless adversity, and the dancing goes on. A crashing section of martial arts pyrotechnics hits a highlight in an obvious way. As the bell tolls, the final ending is mercilessly sad. The musical scores by Gareth Farr and Gao Ping provide substantial framing and shifting moods. The dancing follows emotion for emotion and becomes predictable.

On the whole this work would benefit from some major editing.

In no way do I wish to belittle the horrendous devastation, loss and human suffering caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and tornados, however making dances about them is always going to require a certain intensity of interrogation, critical reflection and insight that I feel did not emerge in Fault Lines.


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Quake art

Review by Paul Young 21st Sep 2013

Fault Lines was developed to commemorate the devastating earthquakes in Sichuan in 2008 and Christchurch 2011. Premiered at the Melbourne Festival in 2012, it is the result of the collaborative endeavours of multiple partners including the Christchurch and Melbourne Arts Festivals, the Sichuan Provincial and Leshan Municipal Ministries for culture , not to mention the 18 dancers, assistant choreographer Ross McCormack, Troupe Leader Lu Feng, Vice Troupe Leader Li Lilin, Company Director Lyu Yong, Translator Zeng Yanhong, and directpr/choreographer Sara Brodie. As Brodie acknowedges in the programme notes, “Many hands have helped create this work”.

The Leshan Troupe has toured several times internationally and is well regarded. The large opening night audience includes many Chinese Cantabrians, Festival officials and notables such as Mayor Bob Parker. It feels like an important diplomatic event!

The promotional material describes how the earthquakes in China were a crucible for international communities and a catalyst for increased neighbourly relationships, something we in Christchurch have experienced first hand, but this theme is not substantively addressed in the performance.  Earthquake related facts and other graphics are periodically projected onto the cyclorama, but do not seem to have any particular relationship to what is happening on stage. The choreography does not plumb the depths one would expect, and neither does it evoke the visceral impact we have experienced from our own earthquakes.

The score by Gareth Farr and Gao Ping is evocative throughout the work, moody and dramatic where necessary, often having a quality evocative of a calm before a storm. There are entertaining moments. A Traditional figure moves watchfully across the stage like an ancestral guardian; a woman dances a tragic disjointed solo wearing a single high heel, while another woman tickles the audiences funny bone by speaking safety instructions through a megaphone. A dancer rolls DANGER tape to define the stage space as a disaster zone, and we are reminded of other danger zones we have experienced, without having to confront the danger again.

The dancers of the Leshan Song and Dance Troupe have impressive technical capacity. When in comfortable choreographic territory, they cut clearly and concisely through the space, executing some remarkable acrobatic technique and showing they are very comfortable with a kind of traditional dramatic movement communication. However, softer, more metaphoric movement sequences, and less stylised pedestrian movement without an obvious dramatic imperative seems to be a challenge for them to perform, and at times they appear to merely be filling time by walking around the stage.

Fault Lines much like its similarly themed predecessor, the 2011 Christchurch Art Festival’s Tilt by Christchurch Choreographer Fleur de Their, intends to facilitate deeper reflection of life’s vicissitudes. While Tilt captured the zeitgeist, Fault Lines invites more careful reflection. Nearly three years after the Christchurch earthquake, there is much to be hopeful for, and as the need for art as earthquake therapy subsides I look forward to eventually leaving the aftermath behind, literally and conceptually. 


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