ENTERTAINMENT

The 'Asia TOPA' Festival Is Bringing Asian Performing Arts To Melbourne in 2017

The Australian arts industry is in for a shake up.

12/12/2016 9:01 AM AEDT | Updated 13/12/2016 8:28 AM AEDT
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A long time coming.

In a confined room the ghost of a woman, her surviving husband and his new lover are suspended amid the ruptures of natural disaster.

Days after the 2011 earthquake in Fukushima, Japan, the pair are haunted by, first, fleeting euphoria, then grief and loss of hope as they come to terms with its devastating impact.

'Time's Journey Through A Room', by one of Japan's most widely regarded contemporary theatre makers, Toshiki Okada, is an artistic portrayal of mental anguish in the wake of disaster.

Hosted by Melbourne cultural centre 'Arts House', the performance is making its Australian debut at a new triennial festival to commence in 2017.

This feels like a long time coming.

"It is a very intense and poetically-beautiful work that explores the emotional relationship between people who experienced this traumatic event," Arts House artistic director Angharad Wynne-Jones told The Huffington Post Australia.

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In the ruptures of natural disaster, hope springs eternal.

"Whilst it is quite bleak, it also manages to conjure up the possibilities of personal and societal transformation that disaster can bring."

'Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts' is a new festival that aims to celebrate Australia's connections with contemporary Asia and address the lack of cultural diversity on our stages.

We are facilitating an in-depth scale of work that blasts Asian performing arts out of its niche programming strand.

With a multi-million dollar budget from the Sidney Myer Fund, it is the result of collaborations between a host of local and international companies, cultural institutions and government bodies including Arts House, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Arts Centre Melbourne.

"Stephen Armstrong is the creative producer for Asian performing arts at Arts Centre Melbourne and this was his intention. We are facilitating an in-depth scale of work that blasts Asian performing arts out of its niche programming strand," Wynne-Jones said.

For years, Arts House -- like many -- has worked with artists from the Asia-Pacific. The festival provides a framework to interrogate and reframe those relationships on a wider cultural stage.

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Prepare to be mesmerised.

"There are lots of fabulous connections, collaborations and residences between artists living in Australia and across the Asia-Pacific. It has been happening at an individual level for some time now," Wynne-Jones said.

"This feels like a long time coming."

From January to April next year, every major arts company in Melbourne will host more than 350 artists and present up to 60 Asian works that will dominate their calendar. And, unlike other festivals, there is no lead artistic director.

This is a festival that goes on for four months -- that kind of intensity is quite extraordinary!

"It is a refreshing consortia model that works with the strength of our cultural institutions," Wynne-Jones said.

"I think we are really experimenting on a large scale with how Melbourne situates itself within this space. This is a festival that goes on for four months -- that kind of intensity is quite extraordinary!"

Alongside 'Time's Journey Through A Room', Arts House will present 'Kagerou', a second work to explore post-disaster landscapes, and 'Bunny' a durational contemporary dance piece that investigates the powers and complexities of bondage.

Asia TOPA will headline Bollywood musician A.R Rahme -- who brought his soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire to Hollywood -- onstage with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. And the National Ballet of China will perform its most popular work, The Red Detachment of Women, for the first time in Australia.

Asia TOPA is on at various locations in Melbourne from January to April 2017.

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