World on Stage 2021
Manawatū Multicultural Council
Regent on Broadway
Friday, July 9
Reviewed by Judith Lacy
I've never seen anything like it. I'll just pause for a moment for you to consider the magnitude of that statement.
I've seen plenty of cultural and variety shows in my career but World on Stage was next level.
The celebration of Palmy's diverse cultures got off to a rocky, 15-minute late, start when MC Mona Williams' MC microphone wasn't on. But she handled the faux pas so well and went on to entertain and inform with an amazing voice and sass. Williams might not live here any more, but her performance was worth the price of admission alone.
Covid didn't get the better of us, Williams commented. Instead, last year's cancelled show gave performers and organisers time to do even better.
She encouraged us to welcome each act with hello in the appropriate language.
We started with the greeting mabuhay to welcome Igorotak NZ, performing a kalinga dance from the northern Philippines. The athleticism and colour of Igorotak got the show off to a roaring start.
Next was the Palmerston North Chinese School with the dance Colourful Clouds. They had beautiful dresses, buckets of grace and crisp movements.
Namaste to the Shree Dance Academy, which received a tremendous round of applause after performing dances associated with festivals. The folk dance Garba featuring much opening and closing of umbrellas was a technical masterpiece and the academy's set was full of lovely surprises.
The only soloist of the night was Cindy Nguyen who danced to Sac Moi Em Hong (My Lips are Pink). It tells the story of a girl who believes today is always more beautiful than yesterday, a fitting choice for the effervescent Nguyen.
The two items before the interval were firsts for these eyeballs. The Iraq Women's Theatre Group presented Hinna Night, one of many ceremonies of an Iraqi wedding celebration. The bride's feet are sunk in water and grass to symbolise a deep-rooted marriage to come and sugar is held over her head to sweeten the marriage.
Then Aziza Bellydance Palmerston North wore shamadan (chandeliers) on their heads and then wings. So beautiful. So refined.
I hope the slide show presentation of Palmerston North's history is shown again in a setting where people can appreciate it more rather than during the interval as happened at World on Stage.
I enjoyed the IPU World Performance Group showcasing a range of talents, from the well-known Japanese drums to Vietnamese fan dances and Indian folk dances.
The youngest members of the Niusina a le Pasefika Dance Academy were a delight as the dancers gave us a taste of culture from the friendly islands of Tokelau, Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa.
Watching the Pamanlahi Cultural Ensemble perform Tala, a Filipino symbol that means bright star, reminded me of those kaleidoscope paintings you could make at A&P shows. The dance was about optimism for the future and beautifully summed up the whole night.
The Rhythm of Sri Lanka formed only two months ago as they wanted to perform in World on Stage. For most of the performers it was their first time on a stage. Bravo.
The flying feet of the Cailin Traditional Irish Dancing School impressed as they told the dance story A Celtic Dream.
The grand finale was a testament to artistic director Tania Kopytko's vision and organisational skills. First we had the combined pipe bands of Rangitīkei, Manawatū, Horowhenua and Whanganui, then the Palmy Punjabi Dhol drummers representing the Punjabi community.
Palmeirinhos and Samba ao Vento took their mesmerising beat to the audience, then to the street. The beat got into every fibre of my being and I doubt anyone minded being outside in winter. It was a scene that will stay in my mind for some time, quintessentially Palmy as people of a wide range of ethnic backgrounds partied under Paul Dibble's Who's Afraid sculpture and the Naked Pie Man watched from the entrance of his shop.
It's going to be hard to beat World on Stage as the party of parties for Palmy's 150th anniversary celebrations. There was nothing predictable or clichéd and I kept thinking, wow.
The smiles on the audience's faces as we followed the samba beat said it all as did the dancing ushers.