Black is a collection of three short contemporary dance works created by the Expressions Dance Company (EDC) and Guangdong Modern Dance Company (GMDC) as part of the Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project 2015-2020. EDC travelled to Guangzhou in 2015 for the creation of their third collaboration (and title) piece with fifteen dancers from GMDC and seven from EDC performing together under the choreography of Xing Liang.
The first work, Sumeru (choreographed by Liu Qi), was performed solely by the GMDC dancers. The piece is the embodiment of the ancient saying ‘a grain as tiny as a mustard seed can reveal all the wonders of Mount Sumeru’ (Sumeru being the sacred centre of the spiritual world). The dancers, ethereal in stark white are fluid as they move with the flow of gravity, even exploring the flow of unseen forces as they try to make a connection with the earth or each other – each body containing its own physical story but forming a part of the bigger flow. Their movement is skillfully controlled and yet somehow organic like ripples in the vastness of space. The physicality of these dancers seemed traditional and acrobatic as they become possessed by forces we cannot see and cannot wholly understand.
As light as Sumeru was, Don’t occupies the dark end of the psyche. The second performance (choreographed by Natalie Weir) brings us down from the spiritual and into familiar territory as it explores the power of words and the emotional fall out. Perhaps these are words unspoken as ‘Stay’, ‘Go’, and ‘Don’t’ take on physical shapes as letters that the dancers interact with, words that physically comfort and shield them, and as they manipulate the words, restrict and repel them. This piece opens with the naked back of Richard Causer writhing as if language lurks just beneath his skin, a torture to keep it inside. The physical difference between the first two groups of dancers is mesmerizing – the lightness (both in build and dress) of GMDC causing the EDC dancers to seem heavy and burdened by the weight of Don’t. Both groups exhibit grace at opposite ends of the spectrum of gravity.
In the title piece, Black (Xing Liang), the two troupes come together to explore the mysterious colour of infinite depth. With asymmetrical outfits reminiscent of Issey Miyake creations, there is a definite combative feel to this piece with twenty-two dancers on stage moving often independently of each other. Performances are both light and heavy, contrasting the reliable singular weight of the first two pieces. Using both light and dark, pulsing noise and a long possessing silence, Black had that extra layer of theatrics; a memorable spectacle of the entire group as they melt into the floor one by one and kind-of crawl on their shoulder blades across the stage – it is reminiscent of the thrilling choreography of Michael Jackson’s pioneering heyday.
The Cremorne is such a small space that the audience was gifted a unique sense of intimacy during this work – a rare treat in a dance performance from such an evocative and skilled group of dancers. For more information on Expressions Dance Company see the Expressions Dance Company website.