By Jennifer Cheuk
Aotearoa is built on a rich cultural history and this is reflected in the art being produced. ONE: The Earth Rises is an opera/dance performance that intertwines the Maori, Chinese and Polynesian symbolic history. The narrative of how Manukau came to be is told through a fusion of traditional cultural dance and contemporary choreography. ONE: The Earth Rises deconstructs the “racism and prejudice towards minority cultures within Aotearoa”, performing the beautiful cultural narrative of “ancestors, spiritual beings, market gardens, 1000-year-old laments [and] celebrating the diversity of Manukau”. The performance is a synthesis of different art forms, including soundscapes and “striking live visual projections”. Through this, the cultural history of the Manukau region will be an immersive and rich experience, celebrating “our diversity and our stories”.
I was able to discuss the performance with Veronica Lyu, one of the dancers in ONE. She commented that ONE is a “combination of cultural dances…[about] people discovering their stories”. Trained in ballet, contemporary and jazz, Veronica will be performing the dance style that established her passion: Chinese classical dance. The structure of traditional Chinese dance and even Tai Chai will be included in the performance. ONE represents the blend of stories and histories through experimental choreography. The use of cultural dance will visually manifest this blend of history. This performance is about “getting close to the cultures”, showcasing the connections we can make, in spite of our differences. “It’s quite beautiful” she comments, “even people who can’t understand [the Chinese choir] will still find a connection with it”.
Growing up in a bi-cultural city in China, Veronica comments on the way dance can incorporate and celebrate cultural stories. ONE acknowledges the importance of our cultural history as an intrinsic part of our identity: “the culture follows the person” says Veronica. History and culture are not parallel lines, distant and never touching. Rather, history and culture are an intertwined concept, moving and living simultaneously. The performance of ONE will remind you that history is more than fact. History is local stories and cultural traditions. Veronica comments that “We all have stories behind our backs” and that our understanding of life is guided by our cultural stories and histories.
Professionally trained in a ballet school since eleven years old, Veronica’s advice for young dancers is frank: “Just do it…the most important thing for young people [to understand] is if you really love dancing, keep dancing! Just do it! You can really succeed if you have that passion”.
Veronica is certainly a passionate and talented dancer. Her love for dance stems from its freedom and sense of expression: “[when] I perform..it’s really myself”. With her own cultural history, I am excited to see what she will bring to the performance. ONE: The Earth Rises will transcend racism and prejudice, and immerse audiences in the diverse cultural dance and histories of Aotearoa.
ONE: The Earth Rises is playing at Vodafone Events Centre on Wednesday, October 3rd, 7:30pm
Jennifer Cheuk is an English/Communications and Linguistics major with a passion for graphic novels and sophisticated picture books. She likes eating grated cheese and watching niche films. Can be found cartooning and writing on Instagram: @selcouthbird.
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