WOW World of WearableArt Awards Show 2006

The Events Centre, Newtown, Wellington

01/09/2006 - 21/09/2006

Production Details

Creative Director, Suzie Mincrieff
Malia Johnston, principal choreographer

Wellington plays host to the Montana World of WearableArt™ Awards for the second time. Over 30 000 tickets have been sold and 17O garments parade across the cat walk, 500 people bring WOW® to life. A dynamic and diverse range of entrants entries are showcased in 2006, 41 international entries and over 120 national parade across the cat walk.

Aliens dance, sand pours from the ceiling, contortionists tie themselves into knots and the world goes a dotty. What could be more Wowing!

For more information and visual images go to:

Theatre , Performance Art ,

2 hrs 20 mins, no interval

Audience denied access to design detail and craft excellence

Review by John Smythe 02nd Oct 2006

Last Wednesday (27 September 2006), in a letter to the editor of The Dominion Post, a baffled reader complained that the WOW World of WearableArt Awards Show 2006 was neither drama, comedy, dance, singing, tragedy or circus; "it has no story or pathos and it wasn’t fashion." On Saturday, radio show host Kim Hill and WOW Creative Director Suzie Moncrieff shared bemusement at his bafflement. "It is," they concluded, "what it is."

WOW’s stated mission is "to take art off the wall and out of static display, to adorn the body in wildly wonderful ways, and to celebrate this creativity in lavish and unique theatrical spectaculars that inspire all."

This year, from the hundreds of entries submitted, over 160 works of wearable arts were paraded, including 41 from overseas. There are seven competitive categories with prize package ranging from $1,o00 for finalists, through $5,000 for most section winners, to a prize package worth $22,000 for the supreme winner. (For a full list of winners, sponsors and prizes, click on the show title above.)

The "lavish and unique theatrical spectacular" has become more and more necessary as the show has grown through 18 incarnations, from a tent in a paddock via a sports stadium (The Trafalgar Centre) in Nelson to The Events Centre in Wellington, where some 30,000 tickets have been sold for this year’s eight performances (prices ranging from $35 to $155).

The 2006 show included themed entertainment – by singers, dancers, aerialists, contortionists, jugglers and dogs – to an eclectic range of recorded music (ranging from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass to Strauss Waltzes), with highly sophisticated lighting, sound and special effects. About 500 people were involved in making it happen, many were paid and while most of the models, student performers, student designers and many helpers are volunteers, it remains a big budget show.

There were 10 ‘guest performers’, including the Mongolian Angels Contortion Duo from Weber Bros Circus; 23 professional dancers (10m, 13f), joined by 16 from the NZ School of Dance, 22 from the NZ College of Performing Arts and four Kiwi Salsa exponents; 63 adult models (51f, 12m), 18 child models, 19 adult performers (12f, 7m) and 7 child performers.

This year the stage configuration changed from the long traverse runway, with a circular stage in the centre, to a V-haped stage thrusting into the auditorium. Thus the inexorable parade of competing entries started upstage right and followed the V to upstage left – or vice versa – while performance elements mostly played out on the central dais and/or in the airspace above. By compacting the action this way, the visual feast was richer yet there was less confusion than in previous years as to which were the competing works and which were performer/dancers adding to the spectacle.

Darkness, a primordial; rumble then blinding tongues of fire shooting upward opened the show. Hinewehi Mohi took centre stage to set the tone for the South Pacific section with her now iconic sound … Aware that WOWÒ aspires to go global in its reach, this anchoring of its cultural heart felt especially appropriate.

The choreographed performance and dance elements throughout were exceptional, with professionals setting standards well met by the students. Highlights included extraterrestrial waltzers, what looked like 101 Dalmatian-like people (impeccable blending of polka dot makeup and costumes), and suited businessmen with fried egg specs and chooks tucked into their pecs.

Best of all was the aerial dancers clad in fairy lights that turned on and off to wondrous effect: now you see them, now you don’t. That they also ran off through the audience, still aglow and apparently weightless, confounded anyone who thought they were hard-wired to the operating console.

The ever-expanding parade of previous winners reminded us what the show was all about, really, and set the standard for this years’ aspirants. After a high-camp white feather-fanned finale to ‘All that Jazz’ and ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, with a white-wigged Monroe vamping from an aerial hoop above – a rather vacuous cliché for the finale, I thought – the winners were announced via audio-visual presentation and paraded live.

I totally concur with Suzie Moncrieff, who personally judged the Mainower WOW Factor Award, on the entry that most exemplified the spirit and values of her vision. Blow Me by Wendy Burton and Patrick Duffy from Christchurch, dynamically depicts a man and a woman caught in a Wellington gale.

Fluoressence, by Susan Holmes (Auckland), winner of the CentrePort Shape It Section, displays an elegant line that comes into its own when worn and paraded. Likewise Harakeke, by Nelsonian Ruth Carlile (commended in the South Pacific section and a runner up for Richard Taylor’s Weta Award) came alive on stage. Winner of the AT&T Illumination Illusion® section, The Ballet of Ineluctable Doom by Tracey Smith & Chris Koole (Auckland) used three models to capture a bullfight – although their choreography could have been better suited to the idea.

Other finalists and winners raise the still unresolved problem that while the judges – quite rightly – pay great attention to design detail and craft excellence, the audience is denied even resonable access to that dimension. Thus, to take just one of many examples, what looked like a couple of amorphous brown blobs in the Bizarre BraÒ section turned out to to be an intricate evocation of the natural beehive – and we only know that because it got Commended in its category and a close-up glimpse was flashed on the screen.

With audio visual technology already in place and part of the show, it seems to me much more could be done to share the craft detail elements with the audience, if not throughout the show (this would be a great challenge for students of film and television schools), then at least when displaying the commended, runner up and winning entries.

This year Aucklander Rodney Leong’s The Love of Icarus won the American Express Open Section, the HP Planet Section (for the best garment using recycle materials) and the Montana Supreme World of WearableArt™ Award (of $10,000 plus an American Express $10,000 sponsored international travel prize and a Hoglund art glass trophy).

An evocation of "a shadow figure … floating within the moon", its large translucent discs – between which the black body-stockinged wearer is sandwiched – are painstakingly constructed from 20,644 plastic collar stays and lycra. It must look stunning close up but there is no way the mere mortals in the audience can see that.

To me it might just as well have been made from fancy shower curtain plastic. And – unlike many other contenders – it made no special virtue of being worn and paraded. Maybe some special lighting would have shown it off better but that’s not possible when it’s paraded with so many other entries. When the inability of the audience to share in such a key aspect of the whole concept impacts on the climax of the show, it cannot help but affect the overall satisfaction level.

That said, the abiding impression is of a show based of extraordinary creativity and ingenuity. And with eight shows selling out in such a large venue, it may well be that the creative team will see no need to finally meet the challenge of sharing much more of the craft excellence and design detail with their audience.

Footnote: From November the WOW Gallery in Nelson (near the airport) will display garments from this year’s show for the ‘up close and personal’ inspection of visitors


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