Dance and physical theatre are at the heart of her first programme as PIAF Director.

Wendy Martin knows dance and you need look no further than her impressive resumé to understand how. Formerly the Head of Theatre and Dance at the Sydney Opera House, Martin was most recently in charge of curating the dance offering at London’s prestigious Southbank Centre. Unsurprisingly, for her inaugural programme as Director of the Perth International Arts Festival, she has chosen to headline with some of the world’s most radical dance-theatre makers. 

“It’s the kind of work that I love,” Martin explains. “Work that is indefinable, but also unforgettable. When you’ve been as fortunate as I have, to have been exposed to the work of the world’s great choreographers, you realise that in the hands of these artists, the language of the body is just as articulate as words.”

Take, for example, Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Apocrifu (above), which is a nexus between physical expression and spiritual belief. Cherkaoui’s lyrical, emotionally-supercharged movement is both assertive and deeply spiritual.

Aditi Mangaldas, on the other hand, is a virtuoso of classical Indian dance form Kathak, which combines percussive, rhythmic stamping and lightning fast movement with mime-driven storytelling. Within places this superb dancer at the centre of an exploration of this Indian tradition’s past and the possibilities of its future.

Claire Cunningham’s Guide Gods

Martin has invited Scottish dancer and choreographer Claire Cunningham to be 2016’s Artist in Residence. Cunningham’s thought-provoking output flies in the face of our expectations of both choreography and the human body. An artist with a disability, Cunningham makes her crutches – a part of her life since the age of 14 – a central element in her work. For Martin, incorporating “disability arts” into her first PIAF was essential to establish an important legacy for the Festival. “What I love about Claire’s work is that she embraces difference,” Martin says. “What she does with her body is absolutely virtuosic, but also defies notions of limitations and offers us new perspectives on the body: how they move and what their beauty is.”

Also present in Martin’s selection are works that aren’t content to push against a single boundary, but rather break new ground across multiple mediums simultaneously. Aurélien Bory’s collaboration with Japanese dance artist Kaori Ito, Plexus (above), is an astonishing collision between movement, sound and installation. Trapped in a forest of 5,000 taut cords, Ito both manipulates and is manipulated by her environment in an experience that is as sonic as it is choreographic.

Finally, radical South African artist and theatremaker William Kentridge is an artist who doesn’t just think outside the box; he blows it completely apart. Refuse the Hour is a kaleidoscope of artistic expression, fusing opera, dance, installation and theatre into one dense, indefinable mass, yet within this vibrant melting pot, Kentridge threads a guiding line of narrative that draws the audience on a journey through this bizarre but beautiful world.

Perth International Arts Festival takes place from February 11-March 6

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