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Loop On Festival 2000 - In Your Face

APEC? America's Cup? We'll take the arts, thanks. The 21st century gets a cultural kick-off with New Zealand Festival 2000, and this year's programme offers the weirdest and most diverse lineup yet. Executive Director Carla van Zon and Artistic Director Joseph Seelig have brought together a boundary-pushing array of theatre, dance, music, visual arts and special events, with outstanding local content. The action takes place at over 40 Wellington venues around the region for the three weeks from 3 March. We provide advance warning.

IN YOUR FACE

LOOP's cover freak is one of the crew from Shockheaded Peter, a 'junk opera with live animation and big hair', currently doing serious business on Broadway and getting a rave writeup in the New York Times (www.nytimes.com). British director and designer duo Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott have created a cacklingly funny adaptation of Heinrich Hoffman's Struwwelpeter, the 19th century book of cautionary tales for children. Hoffman's grisly and gruesome comic poems about the nasty ends that meet naughty Victorian children (like little Suckathumb and his precious digits, Augustus who will not eat his soup, Harriet who foolishly plays with matches) are brought together in a theatrical setting that evokes the lost world of Victorian theatrical illusion. Hoffman wrote and illustrated Struwwelpeter in 1844 as a reaction to stupid moralising stories ending with 'the good child must be truthful'. Shockheaded Peter and his lunatic nursery of miscreants have horrified and fascinated generations ever since. See www.tigerlillies.com. Take the kids. Also in the edge-pushing Saatchi & Saatchi Selection is Giulio Cesare from controversial Italian director Romeo Castellucci and his celebrated company Societas Raffaello Sanzio, mixing theatre, multimedia, obese and anorexic cast members, a full-time taxidermist (Brutus' lament is accompanied by a fluffy stuffed cat with a spinning head and Cassius is met by a fox with an exploding tail) and internal organs displayed on screens during classic Shakespearean speeches in Italian. Don't take the kids. Out on the dancefloor, Cool Heat Urban Beat fuses rapid-fire hip hop and jazz tap to celebrate the power and passion of black American dance culture. An astonishing athletic display, the show offers bodypopping, breakdancing and the stylish grace of jazz-tap dancing with a DJ's turntables and drummer's kit as referee. The all-male company is led by two opposing dance masters: hip hopper Rennie Harris (recently voted one of the 100 most influential people in the history of Philadelphia) who leads the eight-strong Pure Movement, and French Ghanian jazz tapper Herbin van Cayseele, founder of Urban Tap. They present their blistering routines in an effort to win over the gathered crowd with introductions by rap poet Joey Middleton, big beats from drummer Daniel Moreno and scratching from turntable wizard DJ Signify. Mind boggling rhythmic complexity. Check out www.puremovement.com.

"Bach's music," trumpeter Wynton Marsalis told Gramophone magazine, "sounds like God walked into the room." The most acclaimed jazz musician of his generation is playing Ellington, not Bach, at this Festival but there's plenty of Johann Sebastian on the menu with the year 2000 marking the 250th anniversary of Bach's death. One of the finest contemporary/classical choreographers, Nacho Duato, leads Spain's exceptionally stylish Compania Nacional de Danza in Multiplicity, danced to and inspired by the music of Bach. The New London Consort performs Bach's finest choral work (Mass in B minor), the Brandenburg Concertos and his four Orchestral Suites in The Genius of JS Bach. The Festival's international fine music programme is brimming with world-class talent, from British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber with the Auckland Philharmonic, to the New London Consort, Spanish early music ensemble Hespèrion and Russian/Australian classical guitarist Slava Grigoryan. The Festival's concert presentation of Gluck's masterpiece Orphèe et Eurydice will bring together under the baton of one of Britain's most respected conductors, Jane Glover, fine New Zealand and international singers, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Voices New Zealand. Seen by many as pioneers of the electronic dance genre, The Orb come to New Zealand to showcase their mesmerising live sound. Serving up hook-laden dance hits with an array of mindbending visuals, they create a blissed-out atmosphere to soak yourself in. Expect to hear house, dub, ambience, drum'n'bass, jungle, classical, African and more genre-defying sounds. The paintings of Frida Kahlo, the most famous woman artist of the 20th century, and her world renowned husband, Diego Rivera, will feature as part of Viva La Vida showcasing Mexican Modernism at the City Gallery. The show's hundred paintings in Viva La Vida illustrate the depth of the couples' difficult but mutually inspirational relationship. The potent works feature alongside those of muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco, plus more contemporary artists.

New Zealand writers, performers and artists are at the heart of the Festival's Outstanding Aotearoa season, with six specially commissioned works alongside a stunning array of local talent. Jacob Rajan, one of Wellington's most creative writers and performers, stunned audiences with Krishnan's Dairy. Next year's piece looks equally imaginative as Rajan and co-writer Justin Lewis present The Candlestickmaker, the story of a young New Zealand student who sets off to find India and instead discovers astrophysics. The Candlestickmaker reminds us that a thousand years is but a twinkle in the eye of the universe, where characters range from a 300-year-old servant to a duck, white dwarfs and black holes. Other commissions include: Blue Smoke; Rutherford; new Briar Grace-Smith play Haruru Mai; Witi Ihimaera's first play, Woman Far Walking; and Baxter, the poems of James K set to music by some of NZ's hottest recording artists. New Zealand's foremost choreographer Douglas Wright teams up with world-renowned counterparts Mark Morris and Eric Languet to create three different works interpreted by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Wright's work, halo, mixes spoken word, dance and theatrical slapstick to brilliant effect. Mark Morris and his company were a highlight of the 1998 Festival with L'Allegro; Morris presents the magical, abstract ballet Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes set to a live performance of 13 piano etudes by Virgil Thomson. Eric Languet's Drifting Angels explores that night-time state of wakefulness where things appear to be worse than they really are. The performance takes place before a large full moon and features 15 kilograms of snow and a shower of salt. New Zealand musical premieres include a symphony by Anthony Ritchie exploring the symbolism of the new millennium, to be performed by the Auckland Philharmonia; a piano quintet by John Psathas performed by Dan Poynton and the New Zealand String Quartet; and a work by Gillian Whitehead featuring pianist Rachel Thomson and flautist Bridget Douglas. The NZ highlights of the Festival's extensive visual arts programme include an exhibition of early paintings by Frances Hodgkins, featuring work never before seen by the public, and Ross T Smith's photographic exhibition Hokianga which toured Europe earlier this year. Leading New Zealand writers appearing as part of NZ Post's Writers and Readers Week will include Stephanie Johnson, Albert Wendt, Jack Lasenby, Jenny Bornholdt and Michael King, who will speak in a special session about his biography of novelist Janet Frame. Oratory and politics also come to the fore in two new Festival initiatives. The Victoria University International Lecture Series will see leading British cultural commentator Melvyn Bragg (The South Bank Show), British theatre critic Michael Billington (The Guardian) and British Council Director of Arts Paul Smith speak on cultural issues from an international perspective. The Victoria University Great Culture Debate will feature well-known New Zealanders from various arts disciplines debating the role of culture in New Zealand in the new millennium.

While the Festival will utilise all the city's key entertainment venues, it also takes audiences to new places, like Les Arts Sauts' dome in Chaffers Park. A window section of the Farmers store in Cuba Mall will be transformed into a sealed living space - bedroom, lounge/dining-room/dance floor, kitchen, telecommunication centre and the all-important bathroom (with shower and toilet) - for the Unisys Urban Dream Capsule. This installation, designed by Richard Jeziorny, sees four intrepid cultural adventurers transfer their entire lives to a shop window for 15 days, in a 24-hour, non-stop incubation event. The actors are not able to leave, and the passing public can watch them eat, wash, cook, sleep, entertain and... well, e-mail or phone them with some ideas (addresses and numbers will be on the window). Installations in other countries have caused traffic jams, mini riots and impromptu performances on both sides of the glass, with the dream team greeted like heroes on re-entry into the real world. Listen for interviews and updates on Radio Active's NOKIA Caffeine & Aspirin show (see page 34). Last Festival, beautiful venue the Dans Paleis (a wooden 'tent' specially imported from Belgium) became the place to go for post-show entertainment, hosting a diverse range of performers, with main bill artists stepping in for impromptu sessions. Expect the Dans Paleis to be popular from the get-go in 2000, with entertainment coming from musicians Te Vaka, Tim Finn and Nathan Haines among others. Haines, one of New Zealand's most innovative and popular jazz artists, runs one of London's foremost 'new jazz' nights at Notting Hill and for the last three years has been releasing cutting-edge dance music on the acclaimed Metalheadz label. The line-up for the concert includes young jazz pianist Kevin Field, brother Joel Haines on guitar and father Kevin Haines on bass. The Festival's extensive Out and About programme will feature free outdoor performances in the city and surrounding Wellington regions, including spontaneous, creative hairdressing from Spain's Osadia, the street antics of Belgium's Wurre Wurre and performances by one of the world's most acclaimed drummers, Japan's Akira Jimbo. Romeo & Tusi by Oscar Kightley and Erolia Ifopo does Shakespeare Polynesian-style in an urban tale about love and prejudice ('gentle Maori warrior with big juicy lips scores fly Polynesian princess with frizzy hair'), featuring LOOP#1 cover star Dallas. Christchurch's Pacific Underground perform live beats and melodies. Also check out Cube, a fantastic combination of drumming and performance by four of NZ's most talented percussionists - Murray Hickman, Gareth Farr, Jeremy Fitzsimons and Tim Whita - who together are known as Strike. Cube is performed in three scaffold cages, adorned with a myriad of percussion instruments and assorted percussive junk.


ENDS

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