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Review - Matrix: energy that would light up a city for a week

November 14, 2019

A scene from Auto Cannibal. Photo by Yin Pen

 

Matrix

Auto Cannibal choreographed by Stephanie Lake

Encircling Voyage choreographed by MA Bo

Expressions Dance Company and Beijing Dance/LDTX

Presented by EDC/ Beijing Dance/QPAC

Playhouse Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

Season November 13-16. Duration: one hour 30 minutes including interval. Bookings: qpac.com.au or phone 136 246

 

This cross-cultural mix of dancers provided a packed Playhouse audience with some stunning dance on the opening night of these two new works. Expressions Dance Company’s six ensemble dancers joined with 14 from the China and melded into a team that looked as if they had been together for years, not just the five weeks of intensive creation and rehearsal they actually had.

The precision dance was simply staggering and the energy expended would light up a city for a week.

Matrix consisted of two parts, the first Stephanie Lake’s whirlwind Auto Cannibal and MA Bo’s Encircling Voyage, a work that was done almost in slow motion.

Auto Cannibal was a frenetic work danced for a frenzied 25 minutes. The abstract choreography, according to Stephanie Lake’s program notes, relates the modern world’s obsession with newness and consumption but is also a tribute to the modern idea of recycling. She confessed to using some of her old choreographic ideas to create the work.

It opened with a single dancer in a spotlight with background of Robin Fox’s electronic soundtrack. Slowly the other dancers, dressed in black shorts and white tops joined her and the pace quickly increased.

The 20 dancers ebbed and flowed, sometimes like a fast moving shoal of fish being chased by predators, sometimes marching with military parade-ground precision others merging to create a crowd, catching a falling dance, or lifting acrobatically.

There were solos, duets and small group dances that seemed separate and yet they created a kaleidoscopic pattern that was a delight to watch and at the end the amazingly easy-breathing dancers received tumultuous applause.

 

A dramatic scene from Encircling Voyage Photo by Wang Xiao-jing

 

The 45 minute long Encircling Voyage from MA Bo was the complete reverse of Auto Cannibal. It was gently paced and dramatically atmospheric. This was helped along by a moody lighting plot by Joy Chen, which kept a lot of the action in a mysterious semi-darkness

It was danced to a score by David Darling, and the dancers wore ash-covered costumes designed by Wang Yan.

It opened with what appeared to be a body lying by a coffin and a man uttering prayer-like sounds. MA Bo’s circular voyage through life had begun.

The choreography at times was sublime as the dancers flocked together or separated into moving tableaux; there were also some brilliant solos and some mysterious movements at the rear of the stage as the dancers crossed in a continuous line on and off the stage. It was truly spooky to watch. People bent as an old person limped across the stage; incantations were heard and a baby’s cries rent the air in this circle of life

Also integral to the action were six mirror-surfaced benches, which were used in various dramatic ways, especially in the heart-stopping finale moments. From the midst of a crowd a lone female dance ripped off her costume to crawl and contort semi-naked on the raised shiny benches in a symbolic act of death to complete the circle, as the rest of the group scattered ash on the ground.  It was incredibly moving.

 Matrix showed once again that when EDC is involved contemporary dance is more than just abstract choreography is exhilarating and a joy to watch.

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