Nelson Arts Festival breaks the ice with October return

A performance artwork that involves a block of ice hanging from a crane over the harbor will be part of this year's Nelson Arts Festival.

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A performance artwork that involves a block of ice hanging from a crane over the harbor will be part of this year’s Nelson Arts Festival.

Dancers performing for eight hours on a block of ice hanging over the harbor is just the tip of the iceberg for the Nelson Arts Festival this year.

The 11-day festival will see more than 200 artists participate in the event, which is scheduled to take place October 20 to 30.

Popular acts such as Night Vision will be returning, alongside new international acts such as Thaw.

During Thaw, dancers from Australian physical theater company Legs On The Wall will balance for hours on a 2.7 tonne block of ice hanging above Port Nelson.

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Thaw is performed by Australian dance troupe Legs On The Wall.

Supplied

Thaw is performed by Australian dance troupe Legs On The Wall.

Meant as a commentary on the current climate crisis, audiences are invited to watch the dancers perform over the eight hours as the ice melts.

Nelson Arts Festival executive and artistic director Lydia Zanetti (they/them) said it was exciting to finally bring in international work to the festival.

Thaw had been performed at the Sydney Festival in January, and was said to be an “exceptional and life changing” piece of work.

Other acts included an exhibition at Refinery Artspace called Ko Te Ākau would show the work of arts laureate Charles Koroneho (Ngāpuhi, Te Mahurehure, Te Parawhau, Ngāti Hau).

Instead of the usual Mask Parade and Carnivale, mask displays will be shown at local businesses, and a series of workshops by Community Artworks would be offered as part of the Masks About Town experience.

Celebrated visual artist Andrea Lockwood‘s Piano Burning would end the festival at a secret location on October 30.

Thaw and Piano Burning were two performances that could not be seen anywhere else in the country.

Zanetti was excited to see how the community would respond to this year’s festival.

The executive and artistic director said they were proud of the festival’s programme, and thought people were going to love it.

The breadth of the program was large and spread across the entirety of Whakatū, which was “really exciting.”

Nelson Arts Festival executive and artistic director Lydia Zanetti says they are excited to show people this year's new programme.

Melissa Banks

Nelson Arts Festival executive and artistic director Lydia Zanetti says they are excited to show people this year’s new programme.

For the first time, the festival would be using a Pay What You Can (PWYC) ticketing system that would allow people to choose from a range of ticket prices.

The PWYC system was a trial, and was based upon overseas festivals’ successful practices.

The new ticketing practice would help break down financial barriers and “open the door a little wider” for people in the Nelson community to engage with the arts.

This was a holistic approach to ticketing, Zanetti said. They believed the Nelson Arts Festival was the first major festival in New Zealand to use this system.

Another new development was the Festival’s first residency programme. Starting from this year, a local artist would be given space and resources to develop their ideas and work.

The residency program was about finding new ways to invest in artists, Zanetti said.

While the artist in residence had not been chosen yet, a call for expressions of interest was soon to be announced.

The festival had been badly affected by the pandemic over the past two years. In 2020 the majority of shows and the Mask parade was cancelled, and in 2021 organizers canceled most events due to uncertainty around the levels.

Nelson Arts Festival will be held from October 20 to 30 this year. Tickets can be purchased here.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the Mask Parade would be returning in October. Amended: 9.52am, August 5.

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