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Korean dance group performs neck-deep in tanks of water on the waterfront

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A Korean dance group will be clambering into human-sized tanks filled with water tonight, and encouraging their audience on the Wellington waterfront to join them.

Elephants Laugh will perform up to their necks in water, exploring themes of inclusion, diversity, and what it means to be an island nation, as part of free event The Performance Arcade.

Dancer Yared Kebede, 26, said they’d been rehearsing Muljil since last Sunday.

“It’s really exciting to be honest – it’s something you might not expect.”

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For three nights this week on the Wellington waterfront, a Korean performance group and members of the refugee community will clamber into tanks filled with water, encouraging their audience to do the same.

MONIQUE FORD / STUFF

For three nights this week on the Wellington waterfront, a Korean performance group and members of the refugee community will clamber into tanks filled with water, encouraging their audience to do the same.

First slipping into the water – although it was warm – was always a shock he said, and he hoped the audience would enjoy the show for its uniqueness.

Director Jinyeob Lee met performance arcade artistic director Sam Trubridge in Korea, who thought it would be a good message for New Zealanders after the Christchurch mosque attacks.

“[Audiences] can’t imagine being refugees, they don’t click,” Lee said.

Four performers begin in a tank each, and are joined toward the end by another performer.

Dancers perform up to their necks in water, exploring themes of inclusion, diversity, and what it means to be an island nation, as part of free event Performance Arcade.

MONIQUE FORD / STUFF

Dancers perform up to their necks in water, exploring themes of inclusion, diversity, and what it means to be an island nation, as part of free event Performance Arcade.

Shortly this performer would leave, and invite members of the public to clamber into the tanks themselves.

“We want to trigger relationships with this community, with the local people. We often do participatory performances,” she said.

“I want to have a different relationship. Instead of actor-to-people, people-to-people.”

People often assumed it was set up, but true strangers would put themselves forward to climb in.

The group has performed all over the world, and has been rehearsing with local members of the refugee community in Wellington since last Sunday.

MONIQUE FORD / STUFF

The group has performed all over the world, and has been rehearsing with local members of the refugee community in Wellington since last Sunday.

Would Wellingtonians be ready to put themselves out there? “So far, we’ve never failed,” Lee said.

Performance Arcade is an annual free event held on the Wellington Waterfront until March 1.

Run yearly since 2011, an assortment of shipping containers create an innovative new space for performance arts presentation.

Audiences grew to more than 90,000 people in 2019.

"We want to trigger relationships with this community, with the local people. We often do participatory performances," director Jinyeob Lee said.

MONIQUE FORD / STUFF

“We want to trigger relationships with this community, with the local people. We often do participatory performances,” director Jinyeob Lee said.

* Catch the show at the Performance Arcade behind Te Papa until Sun 1 at 8:45pm every night.

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