Friday, November 8, 2019


Matrix.  Modern dance: Auto Cannibal by Stephanie Lake and Encircling Voyage by MA Bo.

Expressions Dance Company and BeijingDance/LDTX at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, November 7-8, 2019.

Auto Cannibal
Choreography by Stephanie Lake with the dancers
Music – Robin Fox
Lighting – Joy CHEN
Costume – XING Yameng
Rehearsal Director – Richard Causer

Encircling Voyage
Choreography by MA Bo
Music – David Darling
Sound Effects – MAO Liang
Lighting – Joy CHEN
Costume – WANG Yan

Photos by YIN Peng

Reviewed by Frank McKone
November 7

Over a five-week period, the Brisbane dance company Expressions worked in Beijing with China’s first officially registered private professional modern dance company LDTX, co-founded by Willy TSAO and LI Han-zhong, to create these two works.  “LDTX is an acronym for Lei Dong Tian Xian which translates as ‘thunder rumbles under the universe’.

Performing at The Q adds an interesting element to the production, since “The incidence Q matrix is defined as a K×(2K−1) matrix that contains items that probe all combinations of attributes when they are independent.”  [ Theorems and Methods of a Complete Q Matrix ... – Frontiers › articles › fpsyg.2018.01413 › full  ]

Don’t worry – you won’t need any mathematics to understand the dance.  Stephanie Lake explains her background thinking for Auto Cannibal, writing “I’m sometimes afraid that I’m repeating myself or cannibalising my own work….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.”

This was exactly how I responded to her thoroughly abstract dance, immediately it ended.  During interval, words flowed in my interpretation of what the dance represented:

Abstracted thought.  Think of the mind – your mind – forever insistently generating thoughts.  How, at entirely unpredictable points, a mass of thoughts can momentarily seem to have all come together as one.  Yet a fraction later a single thought takes off on its own – others follow, perhaps.  .  Then a new focus – two ideas seeking to work out meaning, but the energy of the mind finally settles – represented here by the falling of silent snow, whitening the scene, blanking out the thinking, white against the dimming light – in peaceful calm.

Suddenly a whole crowd has taken over your mental space
A scene from Auto Cannibal by Stephanie Lake

A lovely, original work of dance art – a visual poem.  An honour to participate in, in our contemplating minds, our own thoughts incessant, like the dancers, until a natural end point – our applause.

Final scene from Auto Cannibal by Stephanie Lake
Photo: WANG Xiao-jing

The Encircling Voyage takes us, in symbolic form, into the ebb and flow of human society.  MA Bo tells us the terribly sad story of the march of time, the weight of history: the inevitability of our inability as people seeking individuality to escape the gravitational force of society.  In the end the work focusses on the grip of unavoidable responsibility for women, the creators of new birth confronting the reality of their own death.

Final scene from Encircling Voyage by MA Bo

As the lights dimmed on this awful scene, the audience began to applaud only hesitatingly, muted by their feelings, until the whole company reappeared for several curtain calls to receive the whole-hearted recognition they deserved for the complete presentation of Matrix, when all our independent attributes came together as one.

Special praise must be given to The Q and its artistic director Stephen Pike for having the vision, and perhaps even the temerity, to bring such wonderful work to our regional theatre.  This is surely Lei Dong Tian Xian – thunder rumbling under the universe.