Chinese traditions seen through Kiwi eyes

02:18, Feb 20 2012
Free festivities: XiYao Chen plays the gu-zheng while Marie Hermo Jensen, Alex Hitchmough and Claire Gray embrace being in the Chinese Scholars Garden for their site-specific dance Whispering Birds, which is part of the Waikato Times Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.
Free festivities: XiYao Chen plays the gu-zheng while Marie Hermo Jensen, Alex Hitchmough and Claire Gray embrace being in the Chinese Scholars Garden for their site-specific dance Whispering Birds, which is part of the Waikato Times Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.

Chinese styled dancing with a contemporary Kiwi twist is just one of the many events set to delight those who venture down to the Hamilton Gardens during the next two weeks.

The Waikato Times Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival started on Friday night and showcases performances such as Whispering Bird, a 40-minute dance that will take viewers on a physical and emotional journey through the Chinese Scholars Garden – choreographed specifically for the space.

Local choreographer Karen Barbour said the dance, which was the sixth she had done for the festival, was part of her research work at the education faculty at Waikato University.

Cultural crossover: Whispering Bird artists Marie Hermo Jensen, Alex Hitchmough and Claire Gray will combine Kiwi and Chinese performance aesthetics into their work. The group is part of the Waikato Times Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.
Cultural crossover: Whispering Bird artists Marie Hermo Jensen, Alex Hitchmough and Claire Gray will combine Kiwi and Chinese performance aesthetics into their work. The group is part of the Waikato Times Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.

Dr Barbour said the dance was inspired by the garden, which was a Kiwi interpretation of a Chinese garden.

"I've been working on it for the best part of a year. There's something magical about performing in a theatre, but performing in the gardens is something else again," she said.

Dr Barbour said it was great to be able to put on the show for free, and she hoped loyal followers and garden-dance novices would come along to one of the five performances.

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The dancers would be performing to ancient Chinese music played by Hamilton-based professional gu-zheng musician XiYao Chen.

Whispering Birds has a showing at 7pm tonight when Dr Barbour was expecting about 70 people to attend. "I recommend you get along early. "When we performed in the Japanese Garden we had to get people to come back to another show."

Numerous other performances will be on during the two-week festival.

 

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