A double bill by Expressions Dance Company in collaboration with China’s Beijing Dance/LDX. Auto Cannibal by Stephanie Lake with the dancers. Music by Robin Fox. Lighting by Joy Chen. Costumes by Xing Yameng. Rehearsal director Richard Causer. Encircling Voyage by MA Bo. Musivc by David Darling. Sound effects by MAO Liang. Lighting by Joy Chen. Costume WANG Yan. The Q Theatre. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. November 7-8.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Expressions Dance Company has collaborated with leading Chinese contemporary dance company Beijing Dance/LDTX to present a thrilling double bill, choreographed by two dynamic and innovative choreographers. Australia’s Stephanie Lake worked for two weeks with the dancers to create Auto Cannibal a powerfully physical exploration of contemporary dance gesture and technique. Lake’s work rejects the new consumerism of the present age and pays homage to choreographers of the past. The astute observer may perceive elements of the choreography of Pina Bausch or Meryl Tankard or Graeme Murphy for example. Ultimately, however, Lake has made Auto Cannibal very much her own as she shapes a sculpture garden of dance styles and expressions. China’s MA Bo worked for three weeks on a longer and evocatively expressive work exploring life’s cycle, its challenges, frustrations, dreams and desires. Where Lake’s work , Auto Cannibal, seeks a new and vital expression of traditional contemporary choreography, MA Bo constructs the creative force of human experience. In EDC’s Auto Cannibal we are transported by the collective integration of dance conventions, the versatility, the extraordinary physicality and the dancers’ sheer technical virtuosity. In Encircling Voyage, LDTX leads the audience through life’s tapestry of encircling experience. It is an exceptionally vivid and fluid work that weaves its spell as we witness life’s cycle through the exquisite power of the dancers to capture our imagination.
What makes the evening such a thrilling and captivating night at the theatre is the electrifying energy and youthfulness of twenty dancers upon the Q Theatre stage. Lake and MA Bo both employ the ensemble technique to full effect. At times, Lake appears to introduce a homage to Bob Fosse’s stylized ensemble group movements, punctuated by Robin Fox’s percussive beat. MA Bo also combines the ensemble flow of his dancers with the simplicity and skill of the solo work. David Darling’s music swells and subsides like rolling waves, at times crashing upon the shore and at other times gently sweeping onto the sand. It is entirely mesmerizing, as we watch the bodies roll and slide along the backs of other dancers or gaze enthralled by the superbly controlled extensions of the soloist.
I am amazed at the display of trust by both companies after only a five week collaboration. As they dance in unison, the effect is magnetic. Lake’s choreography is more spontaneous, sparked by the beat of the music. It is forceful, sculptural and impulsive. MA Bo’s choreography flows with a certain airless grace. The narrative is more defined and the effective re-positioning of reflecting benchtops suggests the changing passage of the journey. Auto Cannibal and Encircling Voyage arise from the identifiable matrix that has brought two outstanding contemporary dance companies together. It is an excellent initiative, allowing the six members of EDC to work with and learn from the 14 rigorously trained and technically controlled Chinese performers.
The Q Theatre is to be applauded for including such an inspiring dance work in its season’s programme. If only the season were longer so that far more people could have the opportunity to see work of this excellence and experience the thrill of the power of contemporary dance of this calibre to communicate the visceral nature of the human condition in our time.