Children’s Cheering Carpet – Kurdish Garden (Festival page)
TPO @ Space Theatre
11:00am, Mon 3 Mar 2008
It’s unfortunate that Children’s Cheering Carpet will inevitably be compared to Glow – after all, they share the same space (pun intended) and a similar layout. The titular Carpet is a large white dance mat onto which images are projected, and – again – there’s a level of interactivity between physical actions on the mat and the images projected onto it. This time, however, the mat itself is pressure sensitive… it would appear that the pressure pads were spaced about every two feet square.
There are three different renditions of Children’s Cheering Carpet, each with their own art and music style. This first session was the Kurdish Garden, based on the art of Rebwar, had big, bold, abstract shapes; lots of fish and rocks and sand. The two performers are certainly attractive and agile; the action is slow, with exaggerated movements of discovery as they roam the mat; stepping on projected stones triggers the next stone in the path to appear, or standing on a horizontal strip may cause it to scroll across the mat. And the gestures and movements are exaggerated for a reason; about ten minutes into the performance, the dancers start pulling children out of the audience into the Garden, onto The Carpet, onto the mat.
And this is where the performance takes a turn for the sublime, for the joyous… and on multiple levels. In managing children on and off The Carpet, the dancers show the most beautiful poise and understanding – open arms being a friendly request that’s never refused. And the children… initially shy and self-conscious, they soon discover the freedom within the rule-set they’ve been offered and begin to play. Leaping on stones, swishing fish away, following a constantly changing path… they laughed and played with joy, instinctively co-operating where necessary. One young fella was anxiously crawling onto the Carpet almost as soon as the performance began.
Like I said, I found this a joy to behold… it was like the blackness of The Space – and the brightness of The Carpet – banished all the children’s preconceptions of what it is to explore, to play. Even better was the scene on exiting the performance; the children were running amok in the little carpet amphitheatre in exactly the same way they had been playing on The Carpet, their parents desperately trying to calm them down. For some reason, I took perverse delight in that.
Sure, the technology isn’t as clever or responsive as that in Glow – but this production feels more substantial. It could be the fact that the audience gets involved, it could be the fact that the dancers feel more “connected” to the piece, it could have been the neat canopy that was dragged between the children on The Carpet and the projector (creating a fascinating cloud effect) – but mostly, I think, it’s because I loved watching the interactions between the dancers and the children. The open and friendly manner in which they managed the children was a joy, as were the responses they got in return. Delightful.