Saturday, November 9, 2019


Expressions Dance Company and BeijingDance/LDTX

The Q

7 and 8 November

Reviewed by Samara Purnell

For you are dust and unto dust you shall return”
This is the lingering imagery upon the conclusion of “Matrix”. Whilst creation and life and death cycles, in both the artistic pursuit and existence itself, are the overarching themes in this production, “Matrix” leaves the audience contemplating subtext and emotions long after they have left the theatre.

Image "Encircling Voyage" from Expressions Dance Company website

Expressions Dance Company collaborated with BeijingDance/LDTX (The LDTX in the Company’s title translates in English to “Thunder that rumbles under the universe”) over a five-week period, in China, to create this work for 20 dancers.
BeijingDance/LDTX is China’s first official private, professional, modern-dance company, created with the intention of giving dancers the scope to freely express their thoughts and sentiments in today’s China.
Thunder that rumbles under the universe” is an apt description for the Company given the political landscape, and the scope of this particular work, especially as at the conclusion of the Australian season, this production will be staged in Hong Kong.
Auto Cannibal” choreographed by Stephanie Lake was weirdly wonderful. Part “Space Invaders” part nightclub, part organisms devouring themselves and swamping each other. Somewhere between a galaxy and the deepest oceans, was the creation and destroying of ideas and life and the interactions between entities. The dancers scuffle and march across the stage, often in clusters, executing awkward-looking movements and angular shapes.
The choreography shifts from frenetic to sudden stillness. Strong solo work was performed to a repetitive, thumping, electronic soundscape, with the staging simply the black curtains and wings.
At times it's as if witnessing the lungs of the earth breathe in. And out. The dancers exhale.
The choreographers of “Matrix” have brilliantly connected two very different dance works, with Chinese choreographer Ma Bo’s work, “Encircling Voyage”, the second piece. “We promise that we will be back” is part of the poem describing her work.
The music by David Darling is hauntingly beautiful. Strings occasionally met the sounds of babies crying and echoes of whale calls.
Wang Yan’s costumes of marbled grey, black and white gave the dancers a degree of androgyny, adding to the relative homogeneity of the ensemble. Joy Chen’s soft blue lighting design and fog created the ambience of twilight and sunrise as mirrored benches were moved and raised vertically, throwing glimpses of blinding light into the audience. Although brief, the pas de deux were executed effortlessly, with graceful lifts.

Image "Encircling Voyage" from Expressions Dance Company website

The dancers created a contemplative mood, with funereal overtones alongside school yard romances. The performers expressed a sense of searching and of sadness and angst, as though the process of discovery, transformation, death and even love was a melancholic and sombre experience. It was moving and mesmerizing to watch.
There were sequences during both pieces when the group ran in circles and bunched in a tight cluster that almost fell into predictable cliche.
The precision and synchronicity of the dancers were exceptional across the entire performance – a necessity to accentuate the dynamics of the pacing and to create the startling visual impact.
The subtle elements that linked the works and gave them synergy were appealing - specific movements in the dance vocabulary, the hint of white (a stripe of paint on the skin and a streak of grey through the hair), the snow to conclude the first work and the ashes (or dust) in the second.
The longer the dances continued the more it drew the audience into the Matrix, at times to the point of breathing in sync with the music or movements.
“Auto Cannibal” was thumping, quirky and playful whilst “Encircling Voyage” beautifully depicted tentative curiosity, naivety and melancholia, even sadness and fear.
“Matrix” is a highly polished, interesting work, with well-appointed choreography performed intensely by this group of dancers. It was deserving of a bigger audience than was in attendance on opening night.
Artistic directors Amy Hollingsworth, Willy Tsao and Li Han-Zhong are to be commended for bringing this exciting collaboration to fruition.
Breathe in. Exhale. Be drawn into the Matrix.