Sunday 24 September 2017

Prepare to be WOWed, truly.

I'm still enough of a child of my Depression era/WW2 parents to consider taking a plane down to Wellington to go to a show the height of extravagance: not at all "our sort of thing" - and also, these days, uncomfortably unenvironmental. But I did it anyway, flitting along the coast of the aptly-named Aotearoa ("Land of the Long White Cloud" for you foreigners) to the capital, to enjoy its ill-gotten gains. By which I mean WOW - the internationally-famous World of WearableArt Awards, stolen by Wellington from its Nelson creators in 2005 and since then going from strength to strength.

I have been to the WOW museum in Nelson (cunningly combined with a classic car collection, for wider appeal) and been amazed by the creativity, ingenuity and sheer hard work that goes into creating these literally fantastic costumes. To be able to get up close and study how they were put together, and out of precisely what materials, is fascinating, and I do recommend going there. But to see the show is something else entirely: a brilliant, spectacular, colourful, entertaining extravaganza that reminded me of Cirque du Soleil even before I discovered that they donate the supreme award. 
Because, this is a competition with $165,000 in prize money and it's hard-fought by international designers as well as locals: from the UK, US, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia and the Netherlands amongst others, creating the 104 finalist designs that feature in the show. This year the winner was Indonesian, the Runner-Up from the US - but to appear at all in the show is a huge achievement. And it is a show: lights, music, dancing, singing, sets, ropes, smoke, mirrors (well, glitter) and clever stage-work including the transformation of a dull dress into a sparkling red number as if by magic, that still has me foxed. It's like CdS in the way that there's a sort of story weaving through it, though fairly peripherally, the main focus here being the modelled designs rather than showy circus gymnastics.

Even though there's no chance of close study like there is at the museum, it's still worth sitting as close as you can afford, so you can appreciate some of the detail, at least. The choreography seemed free-form but was actually carefully methodical, so that almost every model did several spins and poses at each of the five display points around the runway-type stage, giving us time to appreciate the finer points of each costume. Before the show, I heard criticism that it would only last an hour and 45 minutes - but it was so dazzling and concentrated that any longer would have been overwhelming.

I would love to include photos, but none were allowed during the performance, and there's so much stern warning on the website about copyright that I daren't pinch any from there. You'll just have to go to the next show instead (it'll be the 30th, so no doubt even more stops will be extracted). In the meantime, here's a picture of some street decoration I passed on the way back to the hotel, which kind of fits the feel:

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