Matrix is a collaboration between Expressions Dance Company and Beijing Dance / LDTX, an enthralling double bill of contemporary dance works by acclaimed choreographers Stephanie Lake and MA Bo.
Created in only five weeks during a creative development in China, Matrix is performed by the twenty dancers of the two company ensembles, including guest dancer Richard Cilli. The Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project commenced in 2015 as a partnership of cross-cultural exchange and collaboration between Expressions Dance Company and China’s leading contemporary dance companies, but Matrix is the first time that both companies have performed together for the full evening of work. In both pieces, there was no separation of the dancers by company; commendably, Matrix is a truly collaborative production. The performance was also preceded by a welcome and an acknowledgement of country from the stage by EDC Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth.
Stephanie Lake’s Auto Cannibal is an intricately choreographed work, set to an arresting new score by Robin Fox and exploring the idea of reusing, repurposing, and reinvigorating ideas in a world obsessed with consuming from the cutting edge.
Lake’s choreography took place on multiple levels and vacillated between movement and stillness, between individual dancers and the company surging across the stage as if they were one body. The moments of silence were electric in the auditorium, and breath and body percussion complemented the soundscape. Isolations of the neck, wrists, and ankles created the overall vision of subtle, fluid movement through the technical prowess of the performers, and each individual dancer had an opportunity to demonstrate their individual skills in an extensive segment of progressive partner work.
The strength and grace of the dancers was clear, and they made the highly physical and complex choreography look effortless, leaving no movement shortened or unfinished despite the thrilling pace. Lighting by Joy CHEN emphasised the movement of the dancers and shifted focus around the stage, as well as gradually revealing more detail of the costuming by XING Yameng.
The company moved as one, with breathtakingly fluidity; contemporary shapes and sharp changes were performed with balletic smoothness, every flick of the head or formation change executed with flawless exactitude. Such split-second synchronisation in such numbers was an absolute joy to watch and is a testament to the skill and strength of the dancers as well as to the choreographer and rehearsal director Richard Causer, formerly an EDC Ensemble dancer. This was contemporary dance at its finest, performed with the kind of impeccable precision and perfect timing that every dance company should aspire to.
MA Bo’s Encircling Voyage had a different energy entirely; a lengthier, heavily textured piece set to music by David Darling and with sound effects by MAO Liang, the work explored ideas of time, growth, aging, and the cyclical nature of life. MA Bo’s choreography and its execution by the dancers suggested perpetual motion, in keeping with the key theme of the relentless march of time; even in moments of stillness the dancers seemed to be on the brink of the next movement, although this was juxtaposed against moments of statue-like immobility later in the piece.
Again, the skill and strength of the dancers was on full display as they performed emotive duets, complex lifts, and highly physical floorwork with apparent ease. Heavy use was made of props, with the dancers moving on, over, around, under, and behind mirrored benches which served many functions throughout the piece, chasing their reflections or hiding from them. Common for contemporary dance work, there were separate sections of choreography taking place in different areas of the stage, but these overlapped without overwhelming one another. The choreography was complemented by Joy CHEN’s lighting design, which directed the audience’s gaze across the stage and created an interplay of shadows and reflected light with the benches, and costuming by WANG Yan whose rippling, dappled costumes, identical on all dancers, created an interesting visual effect onstage.
Matrix is a truly collaborative cross-cultural production that plays to the strengths of its performers and showcases to audiences two very distinctive works of contemporary choreography, as well as the heights which can be reached within the genre through collaborative creation and an ensemble of world-class dancers.
For ticketing and further information, visit the Expressions Dance Company website. Playing 13 – 16 November 2019 at the Playhouse Theatre, QPAC.