Making a new work on 20 dancers from two different companies in just two weeks is a daunting prospect for any choreographer. Add in the fact that not everyone in the cast speaks the same language, and it’s bound to trigger a fight-or-flight response.

Such was the situation choreographer Stephanie Lake recently found herself in when she spent a fortnight in Beijing working with a mixed ensemble of Chinese and Australian dancers, most of whom she had never seen dance. “Honestly, I was quite trepidatious going into it,” recalls Lake. “I didn’t arrive with any fixed choreography, which was really scary. I really didn’t know what the dancers were capable of or what they were interested in.”

Stephanie Lake’s Auto Cannibal. Photo © Jade Ellis

The project – a double bill called Matrix, featuring works by Lake and Chinese choreographer Ma Bo – is the latest collaboration between Brisbane’s Expressions Dance Company and a consortium of Chinese contemporary dance groups. Established in 2015, the cultural exchange program has proven fruitful for both sides, leading to this most significant and immersive exchange to date.

While Lake...

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