MADE IN CHINA – In just five weeks, with 20 dancers from two countries and two cultures overcoming language barriers, differences in physiques and artistic sensibilities to create two breathtaking and vastly different dance works.
Expressions Dance Company and BeijingDance/LDTX present Matrix.
Defined as a “cultural, social or political environment or context in which something develops”, Matrix is the result of an immersive creative development in Beijing in August and September, producing two new works by multi award-winning Australian choreographer, Stephanie Lake, and the highly-acclaimed Chinese choreographer, MA Bo.
EDC’s six ensemble members are joined on stage by the 14-strong company of LDTX creating a wildly ambitious and dazzling display of dance virtuosity.
In 2015, through a long-term friendship with artistic director Willy Tsao, EDC entered into a ground-breaking partnership with leading Chinese contemporary dance companies, Guangdong Modern Dance Company (GMDC), Hong Kong’s City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC) and BeijingDance/LDTX (LDTX).
The Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project is now in its fifth year, but this is the first time both companies have performed together for the full evening of work.
EDC artistic director, Amy Hollingsworth, said Matrix was a true collaboration “immersing in each other’s cultures, sharing imaginations and energies – despite any difficulties presented by language barriers”.
“So much of human expression is layers of symbolism that allows us to understand what someone is saying – the words and the inflection but also the physical cues, the flicker of expression across a face. These are universal and it is joyous being in the studio and watching the dancers share moments of appreciation of each other’s craft and skill through shared laughter, applause and respect,” she said.
Hollingsworth said the Matrix double bill offered audiences hugely contrasting works – highlighting the varying styles and personalities of the choreographers, and would showcase the range and versatility of the dancers.
“MA Bo’s piece is an emotional, intricate, undulating work with powerful imagery and evolving textures,” Hollingsworth said.
“Stephanie’s piece is a delicious dichotomy of hyper-physical yet incredibly detailed movement. It is sophisticated in both rhythm and structure.”
Collaborating with composer Robin Fox, Helpmann Award-winning Lake describes her work, Auto Cannibal, as an “ode to reinvention”.
“When creating new dance works, I’m conscious of the regurgitation of past choreographic ideas,” she admitted. “I’m sometimes afraid that I’m repeating myself or cannibalising my own work. But the fact is that no idea – in art, technology or ideology – is born in a vacuum. We are all a product of our influences and experiences. Ideas are also part of a life cycle – they are born, they thrive, they degrade and deteriorate and become the fertiliser for the next batch of ideas.
“Our modern world is obsessed with newness and consumption but this work is an ode to re-using, re-purposing, re-invigorating.”
Lake said the opportunity to create work on not only the EDC dancers, but also Chinese dancers with different cultural, training and technique backgrounds was a source of inspiration.
“Collaboration is the engine that makes work happen. I love it. I love discovering new choreographic ideas through the bodies of new dancers. It’s fascinating to see concepts mushroom and evolve in unexpected ways because of the spark between the artists. I enjoy the differences in dancers. It feeds my curiosity,” she said.
Intrigued by a documentary on bird migration, her own physical transition from dancer to choreographer, and seeing her parents growing older, MA Bo’s work, Encircling Voyage, is a poignant and powerful examination of ageing.
“Watching the documentary, what impressed me most was the promise of return: after a bird was born, it would fly away, and then it would go back to where it was born, and it would have gone back to that place all its life,” she said.
“As for us humans, we are actually the same. You’re born, you don’t know anything, you wear nappies. Then you start learning different skills, start walking down all kinds of different roads.
“At the end of the day, all your skills, your things, begin to slowly backspace and flinch. Then you get back to this, even wearing diapers, not able to move or walk, back to a baby state.”
November 13 – 16, 2019