Academic journal article TheatreForum

Beyond the Veil

Academic journal article TheatreForum

Beyond the Veil

Article excerpt


From the notes on Aarero Stone:

Aarero Stone is an enduring lament for the living, inscribed with love. How do we care for the strangely familiar and mourn the distant dead? Tongues of Stone is hard talk, and the stone tongue is the speaking landscape. Colin McMahon referred to New Zealand as "a landscape with too few lovers." How do we recover romance in such a place? Talking in forgotten languages with their remote rites, Aarero Stone performs an archaeology of buried voices. Loosening the tongue of frozen speech, geology becomes mythology: Sibyl's voice endures as her body disappears within a cave, Niobe turns to stone in mourning for her dead children, the women of Belstone are petrified as punishment for dancing on the Sabbath. Rather than a place of too few lovers we find the lovers are many, distant and near.

Carol Brown and Dorita Hannah

Choreographer Carol Brown and theatre architect Dorita Hannah began working together in 2002 on the central performance installation for the 2003 Prague Quadrennial. Entitled The Heart of PQ, it consisted of five towers of the senses constructed in the middle hall of Prague's Industrial Palace. The towers became sites of performance, enclosing other stages and spaces within them to create what Hannah describes as a "performance landscape." [Photo 2] Within the anatomical "Tower of Touch," Brown developed a performance where physical and digital presentations of the dancer's body are contained within complimentary "telescopic" spaces, comparing tactile materiality to sensations of the virtual. Since then their collaboration has continued with Her Topia: A Dance Architecture Event, [Photo 3] for the Isadora and Raymond Duncan Centre for Dance Research in Athens. The performance moved into the building from the street and finished in a courtyard, with lights illuminating figures dancing on the surrounding buildings. Duncaris dream for a choreography expressing natural freedom and celebration became literal in this closing image of an exuberant dance spreading out across the rooftops of Athens.

While they are both from New Zealand, neither Brown nor Hannah have presented work in their home country for some time. They returned with this year's production of Aarero Stone: Two Solos in a Performance Landscape, commissioned by the 2006 NZ International Arts Festival in Wellington. Considering Brown's choreography and Hannah's exploration of immersive performance spaces, this production represented a geographical homecoming. Creatively, it also marked a return from the shifting stages and "found" sites of both Heart of PQ and Her Topia to the more standard theatre environment of Soundings Theatre at Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand. The production featured Brown dancing her own choreography, the focus moving from the more forward-looking emphasis of her technological performances to a consideration of the present: "to express" as she noted, "what is going on in the world at the moment" (Horsley). Hannah designed the "performance landscape" for the two solos, one by Brown, and the other by Maori performance artist Charles Koroneho. Between the three, Aarero Stone became an exploration of trauma, lamentation, and the metamorphosis of grief. The collaborators responded to these themes using the shared mythologies and lithic culture of Celtic England, the Mediterranean, and Maori New Zealand. This article will examine the first solo, where Brown and Hannah's continued their investigation of the relationships between performance and architecture that began in Prague in 2003.

"Aarero" is derived from the Maori word for "tongue." Thus Aarero Stone means "tongue stone," hard talk. The tongue is soft, boneless flesh; The movements and the shapes that it takes are the sounds of our words and languages, our "many tongues." Contrasted with this formless shape-shifter of our utterances, songs, and screams is the stone: an immutable and solid fact, an object that lasts for millennia. …

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