Friday, May 6, 2011

Review- The House of Dancing Water

I was very happy to see The House of Dancing Water on my last trip to Macau. It is infamous for being the most expensive show in Asian History with a budget of over 2 BILLION HK dollars to produce. Created by Franco Dragone; one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil; it is a true spectacle to see. If you want to see a show with a lot of sparkles, shebang and wow factor this is definitely a show for you! Kids seem truly captivated by it when the watch it and it has no foul language so I think it's appropriate for children as young as 5. (They won't understand the sex slave, S&M feel to one of the aerial ballets. They'll just think the girls are really mean and those poor boys are being beaten around!)

We paid to have the expensive seats in the house, one because the cheap seats were sold out and two because we didn't want to get wet. If you sit in the front 2 rows of the stage it is a splash zone much like seeing Shamoo at Seaworld. Bring an umbrella or a plastic sheet to wrap around you and your little ones, or just dress in clothes that dry easy.

There is a lot of artistry in this production. I really like the east meets west feel of the design. It kind of flips between a traditional Chinese architecture and clothing and the Baroque Architecture from the 16th century. The overall feel of the piece is opposites: Ying/Yang, Love/Hate, East/West. It is very simple to understand and there is no talking in the piece. (There are sound effects made by clowns.) Anyone no matter the age or the language barrier can understand the story (what little there is).
The pool with the cover over it


International Casting
I loved the fact that it was an equal mix of races in the casting. Although, why do the white people always have to be evil? And why do the hot Chinese boys have to do Kung Fu? It played into stereotypes but ones that weren't offensive.
The pirate ship coming out of the pool in Act One
The Pool
Okay let's break this bad boy down. The pool at the House of Dancing Water is 3.7 Million gallons of water. The same size as 5 Olympic Sized swimming pools put together. I'm not sure how all the hydro-licks worked in bringing the ship in and out of the pool for the first diving section of the show. I think I would have the see it again in order to really pay attention to the mechanics of the stage more. There was a large shelf that came over the pool that allowed it to become a stage (theatre in the round style) It was brought together in pieces like a puzzle and then connected. It must have been difficult to do all that dancing on the wet floors. The costume designer must have spent a while making shoes that would allow ballet dancing on wet surfaces. No one fell, so good on the shoe designer!

The Projections
The projections included: backgrounds, projections on all the walls and audience,  and holograms projected into the water fountains. The most impressive was the water holograms which made the damsel in distress appear to be dancing/controlling the water. They used projections instead of backdrops to help in the magical appearance of the show. However, there was this giant plant person that kept appearing in the show: Mother Nature? I guess, I don't know. That part although beautiful was weird and awkward.

The Fight Choreography
The choreography over all was excellent but I really appreciated the full integration of fight choreography and traditional circus into the show. It is not just a Cirque show, Dragone strives to make this a full theatrical experience. I thought the dancing in the water was also technically impressive and also performed well. Good job lady swan/s&m dancers!

Scene Changes
As a designer the main reason I go see the shows is to see the scene changes. This one isn't nearly as mind blowing in the scene change department as Zaia.  But Zaia had the proscenium working for it. With Dancing Water the theatre was in the round and thus more difficult for someone to do 100% seamless scene changes. The coolest moment transition wise was when the pirate ship ascended in/out of the pool as it was huge and really showed the depth of the pool.
The aerial divers at the end of Act Two

My Issues
Audience Rudeness
Dear audience of House of Dancing Water, when you are told in three languages to not take flash photos for the sake of the safety of the performers- LISTEN! This was hands down the worst part about the show. Rude people taking flash photos and then the ushers having to constantly cross the isles to tell people "No, stop doing that!" People don't take flash photos during a performance in America (unless it's a kid's dance recital), so it must be a cultural thing. When I pay over 300MOP for tickets I want to enjoy the show not get a bunch of camera flashes in my face! I am of the belief system, that if an audience member breaks the rule of flash photography they should have their camera taken away from them until the end of the show. The people breaking this rules were never children (who could have been confused by the announcement) but adults who new better and were breaking the rules on purpose.
Trapeze Artists make their bodies into chandeliers
Handicap Seating
This seemed to be a massive issue for the venue. There was not enough handicap seating for the massive amount of elderly and disabled that were coming to see the show on my night. Ushers were very nice and helped people carry their family members into their seats. But I think they should make better access to seating for wheelchairs or make a larger wheel chair section for people and their families. You could tell it took away from the experience for the person to have to be carried in. It embarrassed them and even though the theatre did every thing they could have done to help I feel that there was something that could have been done to fix this problem.

Here's the thing: you don't go see this style of show to have your mind blown by some philosophical moment of truth in the story. It's a show that is 90% style and 10% substance. Zaia in Macau has a much better story (if you are looking for both) but House of Dancing Water's story is bordering on the level of pathetic. We meet our hero and then suddenly he's in love with a girl after only meeting her for two minutes and for some odd reason she's in a cage but we never really find out why. And there is this really bitchy girl who loves high heels and beating people and she locks the girl up but we never find out why. The girl can control the dancing water which destroys the bitch's weave in Act two- destroying her power or something. (I guess she melts like the wicked witch or something.) Everyone lives happily ever after but not after a bunch of people dive backwards off of platforms that are 300 feet in the air.
It's a great story for kids of all ages: everyone can understand it no matter the culture. Which I guess is what they were going for. And it is a fun show but it's no Tolstoy...

A bad idea in concept and execution. It does nothing for the show except add 10 minutes and give a section to straight boys. But straight boys are never going to really love this show no matter how much Motocross you give them.
Didn't understand this part, at all...

Grade: B+ Great Spectacle but lack of substance.

1 comment:

  1. I highly disagree on the motorcycle part. You just didn't understand parts of the story. Our heroes aveled in time back to the future and the motor cycle gang beat off the bad guys. It's was a turning point!