Tales from the Giant Blanket

Festival of Asia


A giant blanket bursting with a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns landed in the courtyard of an old church building. Cones and origami shaped objects and birds came alive. This exciting performance, accompanied by live and recorded music, was specially choreographed for people of all ages and was free for public viewing.

Choreographers: Lim Chin Huat, Tan How Choon


Phylogenesis II: Tales from the Giant Blanket @ Chijmes (Singapore)

Date: September 2000

Venue: The Lawn, Chijmes


New Zealand Festival of Asia 2001: Tales from the Giant Blanket and Timeless Dances

Date: March 2001

Venue: Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand


About the festival:

The company was selected to represent Singapore at the Festival of Asia (New Zealand) organised by Asia 2000 Foundation. During the festival, Ecnad presented its outreach project, Tales From The Giant Blanket 2, and from its Arts Education Programme, a work called Timeless Dances.


“…, [Ecnad] signalled a new direction for the festival. Their success with New Zealand audiences meant that more contemporary material is likely to be introduced in future years.”

Festival of Asia 2001 Report, New Zealand



Reviews (1)


Dancing to the same drum

By: Amporn Chakkaphak
Source: Bangkok Post, 17 April 2001


Culture may be radically different from place to place, but the greatest Asian event held outside Asia pushed understanding to new heights

The fear of foot and mouth disease kept the organisers of this year’s “Festival of Asia 2001″ in suspense, as artists throughout Asia found out upon their arrival in New Zealand that all their equipment was to be held in quarantine.

As the festival was due to kick off within the next 24 hours, customs officials at Auckland’s airport worked round the clock to fumigate tonnes of masks, swords, puppets, costumes, drums and more drums, to have them in time for the most spectacular Asian event to be held outside Asia.

The third “Festival of Asia 2001″ which ran from March 23 to April 1 throughout major New Zealand cities, saw the country explode into an array of Asian colours, sounds, spectacles, aromas, tastes, dances and music as more than 120 drummers, dancers, crafts people, musicians and puppeteers from nine Asian countries took part in the event.

The festival started with a colourful parade through Auckland’s bustling Queen Street, in the glorious sunshine. In fact, it was later reported that this was the sunniest March that New Zealand had experienced since 1928.

Leading the parade were a bevy of Malaysian beauties accompanied by rainforest music from Sarawak. Closing the gap behind them was a Japanese Chin-Don band with a lively sound of Japanese drums, banjo, clarinet and accordion, an antic employed by Japanese street musicians to attract crowds that dates back to 1910.

The Samul Nori Drummers from Korea brought noon-time traffic to a halt with their drums and gongs, creating pulsating rhythms in their traditional farmers’ band music, which was accompanied by amazing acrobatic stunts.

Most impressive was the Reog Ponorogo troupe from East Java in Indonesia whose lead dancer wore a tiger mask weighing 50 kilos that he held in place only by the strength of his teeth. On top of that, he also has to bear the weight of another dancer portraying a princess.

Heads turned and smiles broke out as the adorable Shanxi Drummers from China, consisting of 16 boys and girls all under the age of 15, made their way down the street showing off their remarkable skills in combining drum playing with Chinese martial arts.

The Dance Dimension Project from Singapore was the only group with no musical accompaniment but they had a way of drawing the crowd in with their strong visual works in costumes and dance movement.

The Philippines was represented by the Kalinga Gong Ensemble-Kalinga tribal music, from the mountains of North Luzon. It is communal and played with gongs, bamboo pipes and buzzers.

Drawing a loud cheer from the crowd was Thailand’s own Kangsadan group, led by two musicians decked out as Thai kickboxers and accompanied by the traditional Glong Yao Long Drums procession.

Last but not least were the Royal Chhau masked dancers from India with their richly decorated costumes and ornate theatrical props accompanied by a pounding war drum and reed pipes.

The Festival later moved down further South to Hamilton for a one-day event where all the artists again took part in a parade joined by the local Asian communities and later gave individual performances to a large and enthusiastic crowd.

Hamilton’s mayor, Russ Rimmington, declared in his welcoming remarks to the visiting artists that “with 5,000 Asians in Hamilton, we are not the same anymore. We don’t want to be the same. We want to develop real friendship and partnership that goes beyond economic ties. The Festival of Asia is an excellent opportunity for us to learn about the diversity of cultures that are already among us.”

The festival also encouraged young New Zealanders to be Asia-literate through school performances. Back in Auckland, the visiting artists set up their own temporary educational camp, where over three days and nine performances, children aged between five and 13 had their first close encounter with Asian culture.

At the end of each performance, the children were allowed to walk through the ensemble as everyone had fun trying their hands on the traditional Thai instruments.

After one week in Auckland, the festival moved to Wellington where a bigger bash was being planned.

The parade in Wellington saw huge crowds lining the streets from Civic Square to Allen Street in a Madi Gras spirit, with everyone having fun, performers and onlookers alike.

In Wellington, the visiting artists again gave school performances and again the reception was overwhelming. Kangsadan also gave one full concert at the University of Victoria whose music curriculum includes Asian music courses.

Kangsadan was chosen as the closing act and it was a grand finale as they got the crowd on their feet and clapping wildly to Spicy Brazil, a Brazilian tune spiced up with the Thai ranat and various drums.

The “Festival of Asia 2001″ brought Asia to New Zealand in the most impressive way, and forged a new relationship that goes beyond trade, thus helping New Zealanders work more effectively with their Asian counterparts.




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