In this exhilarating double bill, Expressions Dance Company partner with one of China’s leading contemporary dance companies – BeijingDance/LDTX – to present a wildly ambitious programme under the moniker 'Matrix'.
Comprising works by two preeminent female choreographers, 'Matrix' is the result of a five-week creative development in China, and features brand-new works by multi award-winning Australian choreographer, dancer and director Stephanie Lake, and the highly-acclaimed Chinese choreographer, Ma Bo.
Through this cross-cultural collaboration we see two starkly different approaches to contemporary dance – both of which are infused with bold ideas and visually stunning movement.
The first work, ‘Auto Cannibal’ by Stephanie Lake is an ambitious, albeit short piece which uses disciplined formation as the foundation for innovative movement. Those familiar with her work will recognise some of her signature moves which she has unashamedly reused in this new production. Rather than being apologetic, Stephanie has set about to do exactly that – hence the title which references her repurposing, reinvention and use of previously successful choreographic sequences. “Our modern world is obsessed with newness and consumption but this work is an ode to reusing, repurposing, and reinvigorating,” Stephanie said.
'Auto Cannibal' is an aural and visual feast and while abstract in nature, it is powerful in its purpose and Stephanie’s ability to deliver a unique physical language is evident in this high energy, tightly choreographed work.
The twenty dancers respond to Robin Fox’s percussive score with short, sharp, accented hand and arm gestures that are almost robotic in nature. At first, these sequences are delivered in unison before the dancers break away and form new groups across the stage then come together again in a precisely choreographed tribal dance.
Image © Yin Peng
It is breathtaking in its originality and while only 25 minutes in duration, there is so much happening between the dancers it seemed much longer. Costumes by Xing Yameng, and imaginative lighting by Joy Chen added to its impact and success.
The second work, 'Encircling Voyage' by Ma Bo is unambiguously different in its design and purpose and the way Ma uses the dancers' limbs and bodies is quite extraordinary – highlighting the astonishing virtuosity of the dancers.
In this choreographically complex work – which plots the inevitable cycle of arrival, experience and departure – the dancers take every opportunity to fully explore each stage of our existence. At times it's like a game of Twister with the dancers engaged in improvisation. They frequently roll over each other’s backs and intertwine their limbs in seemingly impossible ways. It's playful yet graceful as couples, with hands clasped, propelled themselves elegantly around and around. There are numerous highlights and moments of repetition that carry the piece forward, using the accompanying musical composition by David Darling and sound effects by Mao Liang to wonderful effect.
The dancers commit themselves to the challenging choreography as well as to the stage props where multiple low benches, covered in a reflective surface, are moved around the stage allowing the dancers to move on and around each piece.
While the contrast between the works couldn’t be starker, this double bill showcases the range and versatility of these two companies and the cultural and artistic value of this pioneering five-year Chinese Australia Dance Exchange Project.
'Matrix' plays Queensland Performing Arts Centre until 16 November.