New Works' 10th anniversary presentation of the "All Over the Map" series of free outdoor music and dance performances at Ron Basford Park on Granville Island concluded on Sunday with the pairing of the hybrid Silk Road Trio and the solo movement improvisations of Wen Wei Wang.
Featuring Qiu Xia He on pipa (sort of like a Chinese version of the lute) and vocals, husband André Thibault on guitar, oud, and a variety of wind instruments, and Liam MacDonald on percussion, Silk Road took the audience through an eclectic repertoire of Chinese folk songs, Brazilian samba, and even Memphis-inspired blues. It was certainly stereotype-busting to see Qiu Xia pluck out a Lead Belly-esque number on the pipa, and MacDonald at one point gave a virtuoso tambourine solo that gave me new respect for an instrument that ever since The Partridge Family I'd always maligned as the province of second-rate back-up singers with bad 70s hair.
Then there was Wang, who joined the trio for three numbers. If his improvisations relied a bit too much on props (an oversized pair of chopsticks, eight peacock feathers, and a bright green fan) for my liking, he at least made canny use of the site-specificity of the "All Over the Map" series, beginning his peacock dance, for example, upon the hill where the audience was seated, and slowly wending his way to the stage, tickling a few faces and necks along the way. And in his last improvisation, Wang also incorporated some of Silk Road's ironic and deconstructive approach to Western and Eastern musical styles into his movement vocabulary, his flowing arms and legs at one point segueing into a version of popping and locking.