Posts Tagged ‘matrix

19
Nov
19

Matrix

 

Matrix

Expressions Dance Company (EDC) and Beijing Dance/LDTX

QPAC Playhouse

November 13 – 16 2019

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

 

 

Through the power of cultural exchange and flow of creative understanding, we demonstrate how artistic relationships foster appreciation of diversity and empathy across borders, making our world a better place.

Amy Hollingsworth, Artistic Director, EDC

 

Matrix is the latest development in Expressions Dance Company’s (EDC’s) five-year Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project, begun in 2015 under the leadership of former Artistic Director Natalie Weir, and carried forward under current Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth.

 

In this project, EDC has been working with companies led by Willy Tsao, currently Artistic Director of Beijing Dance/LDTX. The Matrix double bill is the second collaboration between EDC and Beijing Dance/LDTX, the first being in 2011 with the work First Ritual.

 

 

The 20 dancers of the combined companies (6 from EDC and 14 from Beijing Dance/LDTX) have worked with choreographers Stephanie Lake from Australia, and Ma Bo from China to create two very different pieces: Auto Cannibal and Encircling Voyage. The Brisbane season follows a five-week development period in China, and performances in Cairns and Queanbeyan.

 

While the two works are different, there are some basic similarities. They both use the dancers to great effect in coalescing and fragmenting groups, often with the whole 20 dancers on stage. When the whole group moves with everyone very close together, the impression is of different parts coming together to form one whole — like a flock of birds, or a herd of animals, or some colonial organism.

 

With a run time of 25 minutes, Lake’s Auto Cannibal is just over half the length of Ma’s 45-minute Encircling Voyage. While there are pauses, and places where the action freezes, the overall impression is of relentless, synchronised action, driven by the strong rhythms and the snapping, pounding, croaking, and breathing sounds of Robin Fox’s electronic music, composed for this work.

 

In contrast, Ma’s work is overall more contemplative, although there are moments of frenzy and intense action. The music, by composer and cellist David Darling, is darkly melodic, and has an epic or heroic quality. The rich sonority of cellos and other string instruments combines with many other sounds (bells, gongs, babies crying, singing) (sound effects by Mao Liang).

 

The look of the two pieces is also contrasting. In Auto Cannibal the dancers wear sporty white singlets and black shorts (costume design by Xing Yameng), and overall the lighting is warmer and brighter, while in Encircling Voyage they wear dappled-grey coat-dresses (costume design by Wang Yan) and the lighting is generally softer and bluer.

 

 

In Encircling Voyage, polished steel benches are used by the dancers as benches, mirrors, and, end-to-end, as a bridge or walkway, while in Auto Cannibal, the stage is bare.

 

In her program notes, Lake explains that she is ‘sometimes afraid I’m repeating myself or cannibalising my own work’ — hence the title Auto Cannibal — but that in this work she celebrates the reusing and reinvigorating of choreographic ideas.

 

The precision and timing in this work, with 20 people pounding out movement absolutely on the beat of the varying rhythms in the music, are euphoric. Sometimes all the dancers are doing exactly the same thing on the beat, at other times different groups are responding at the same time to different rhythms.

 

The movement ranges from swaying hips, rotating shoulders, pulsing the upper body, nodding, waving the arms and wiggling fingers, to making tiny fast tramping steps, lunging, jumping up and down many times, and running. Having a large group making intricate movements very close together multiplies the movement effect, as do the punctuating freezes and pauses, which are also absolutely synchronised with particular rhythms and sounds in the music.

 

 

Following Auto Cannibal (and an interval) on the program, Encircling Voyage is a very different experience. In this work, Ma celebrates the journey from birth to death. She has been quoted as saying that she was inspired by a documentary about migrating birds and their journeys, and also by witnessing the ageing of her parents.

 

Images of ageing — shuffling walks, bent upper bodies, shaking — are interspersed with different impressions of journeying — people trying to head in opposite directions; a group lifting and carrying someone along; people walking along a bridge with tiny quick steps; someone frantically swimming; a large group marching slowly, bending backwards and looking up. The synchronised intricate movement of a large group has a mesmerising effect.

 

In extended lifts and movements such as twirling and falling to the ground, the dancers have a lovely fluidity and pliancy, with exceptionally flexible backs.

 

Near the beginning and end of the work, a small figure walks slowly across the stage holding a book, and we hear a soft voice speaking in Chinese (perhaps reading out the words about an encircling voyage printed in Chinese and English in the program?). The dramatic end represents the death of one of the group, visually accentuated by clouds of symbolic white dust.

 

This is a meditative and moving work, providing a balance to the hyper-energetic Auto Cannibal, and sometimes seeming a little slow after that.

 

In both works, the passion, commitment and precision of the dancers is awe-inspiring. The exhilaration of Auto Cannibal and the contrasting control, flow and expressiveness of Encircling Voyage make Matrix an intense and absorbing experience for the audience. 

 

The collaboration between the artists from the two different companies and two different countries has generated great energy and creativity. What will the Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project bring us in 2020? That’s something to look forward to.

06
Aug
12

Treasure Island

Treasure Island

Queensland Theatre Company & Matrix Theatre

Kawana Community Centre

Thursday 2nd August 2012

Reviewed by Poppy & Tayah 

If buccaneers and buried gold

And all the old romance retold

Exactly in the ancient way

Can please, as me they pleased of old,

The wiser youngsters of today

So be it.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island is going everywhere, all over Australia. It’s a famous show. It’s a famous book. Did we read the book? We didn’t read the book. There would be boys who already read the book because it’s a boys book, about pirates. It’s a pirate ADVENTURE! But it’s not just for boys, this show, is it? It’s for mums too. It’s definitely for mums because our mums liked it, didn’t they? And it’s for girls too because we liked it, didn’t we? It was excellent!

The story starts with the story being told. It’s a clever start because you know it’s a story and it’s not real. It seems real but it’s not. It’s a play. And that’s the job. To make it real.

It was a little bit scary because they looked like real pirates. They’re actually actors, wearing costumes especially from the theatre. I liked the costumes. There were lots of coats. Pirates wear big coats. And hats. And boots. But Thom had just boys shoes on because he’s a boy in the show.

It was a big surprise to see the skeleton! It scared me out of my skin! I jumped up on mum’s lap and hugged her around the neck!

We could hear the gun shots and the canons. There were real guns. Well, not real real guns but just like the real ones. At the end we found out that that’s a replica. They were nice to take the time to answer kids’ questions. I didn’t have any questions. I just wanted a photo with the actors.

It was excellent!!!!!!!

It was interesting and really exciting. It was so funny. They were really funny.

Tayah’s favourite part was:

at the end when we got photos taken and we got to have a look back stage.

Poppy’s favourite part was:

after the show, when we got to meet the actors and explore back stage. It was all my favourite, I loved all of it but going back stage was my favourite part after the show.

Notes from the Mama:

    • Treasure Island is good old-fashioned fun and fanciful storytelling.
    • QTC’s touring version, by Helen Howard and Michael Futcher, reminds parents and teachers to get the kids away from the screens – big and small – and back into the theatre, where the real excitement is and where the best stories – those that shape our imagination and dare us to dream big – are brought to life on stage in front of our eyes. We believe it. It’s the Tinkerbell factor.
    • This production boasts two generous, energetic and dynamic actors (Joss McWilliam and Thomas Larkin), who portray a multitude of roles between them with an abundance of good humour and a great deal of physical prowess. Ducking in and out from behind the fourth wall and swapping between roles at a rapid pace, these guys give us (Kevin Kline) Pirate King style antics and the kids (and mums) love it!

  • For the really little ones, take some (quiet) snacks and expect them to get a little restless 30-40 mins in (at 55 mins run time, this one’s a bit of a stretch for some under eights. The target audiences are Years 4-7 and Years 8-10).
  • For the older kids/students, read Treasure Island online before you go or BUY OR BORROW THE BOOK. I noticed some secondary school students looking a little underwhelmed (sure, there’s a lot of exposition but there’s also a lot of action!). There were others in the group who were just as excited as the six year olds, to be part of a pirate story for the afternoon! Remember, neither Matrix nor QTC have messed much with the text so the beautiful, rich (old-fashioned) language has been left alone and begs discussion or a revisit if you’re taking a class.
  • There is plenty of scope for follow-up activities, teachers (and parents)! A study of Treasure Island provides such an overwhelming abundance of rich opportunities for further discussion, play and in-depth learning, stemming from its language, history, geography, technology and design, science and arts… let me know if you need an obscure curriculum link!
  • Have you MYO pirate hat with Thomas Larkin? Get the man a Playschool gig!
  • This Treasure Island is not just for the kids. If it’s coming to a theatre near you, take the whole family. Everyone will love it!
  • You might remember the Disney version?! HO-HUM!

Also on tour for Queensland Theatre Company (until the end of August) is Stradbroke Dreamtime, which we saw at Out of the Box.