Arts Festival Review: Loin... (Far...)

By Raewyn Whyte

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Rachid Ouramdane in  Loin...  ( Far... ). Photo / Supplied
Rachid Ouramdane in Loin... ( Far... ). Photo / Supplied

French dancer-choreographer Rachid Ouramdane's multimedia performance installation Loin ... (Far ... ) is a very personal meditation on the nature of identity and the ways in which it is shaped by violence, aggression, war, politics, destruction, and by the legacies of the past we carry with us, especially in our bodies.

Ouramdane has gathered other people's stories in his quest for understanding - former soldiers, civilian survivors in Cambodia and Vietnam, a displaced Eurasian American still trying to make sense of who he is.

And his own mother tells of his father's experiences as a French soldier in Algeria, where soldiers on both sides were imprisoned and repeatedly tortured.

We see their faces close up on screen while their words are, translated into English as a steady subtitle stream which often passes too quickly to take in.

We see scenes from their lives - a rice paddy, the crowded streets of Hanoi, a wild waterfall somewhere in the world, and we hear many different sounds which travel around the theatre behind us - an old lady singing in the distance, a group of men conferring quietly, traffic sounds, a distant storm.

These are fragments only. They are supplemented by a lengthy poetic text and by the remarkable dancing interspersed amongst the stories.

The dancing slowly links the fragments to become something larger, if not exactly cohesive or coherent. Ouramdane's choreography starts with the simplest of moves - standing, kneeling, walking, lying on the floor.

Later it echoes his text at times, showing "a man melting from the inside" and the affects of anaesthesia, amputation, torture.

Always the movement becomes more complex, culminating in a shimmering, fluidly rippling, electric, ecstatic torrent which seems to exorcise the demons and allow him to come to rest, at peace.

*Loin... (Far...) runs till Saturday at the Bruce Mason Theatre in Takapuna. Tickets and information here.

- NZ Herald

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