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Intertwine - Chung Wah Dance Group (Summer Nights)

Reviewed by Paul Treasure


The need for connection and community is a very powerful basic human desire and one that has been explored by the arts for countless centuries. Intertwine a new dance theatre piece by the Chung Wah Dance Group, is the latest addition to this genre, as it explores the notions of identity within the Chinese community.

The show opens at the start of a dance class. In fact, the cast is already on stage warming up as the audience enters, and we have to move through the space and past the cast to get to our seats. A brilliant move as it immediately immerses us into the piece. As the audience takes their places and the last cast members enter the space, the very first section of the work begins. The cast lines up facing the audience. They are then asked various questions and move forward or back depending on their answer. Questions like: “Can you speak Mandarin?”, “Have you ever been to China?”, “Do you celebrate Lunar New Year?”. As the cast moves forward and back depending on their answer they give us a very clear view of how very different the lives and experiences of people within the Chinese diaspora are.

The first actual dance piece is a very modern piece by all seven dancers, often centred on an empty chair, and appears to be a piece about longing and loss. The dancing was tight and precise, and the feeling projected by the cast was very evocative and gave us a very clear indication of the skill levels we were going to see for the rest of the evening. The second piece, a pole dance routine, was a hilarious recounting from one of the cast members about the clash between people’s expectations versus reality. In particular the clash between the idea that she would drive like the stereotype of an “Asian driver” when she was brought up in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and actually drives like a stereotypical South African. This routine was one of the highlights of the evening as she demonstrated great comic timing and exceptional dance skills, combined with bucketloads of charisma.

The rest of the evening was variations on the theme, as we saw a progression of modern and traditional dance styles all performed uniformly well, as the dancers talked about their own lives and their experiences growing up in a community, then moving to Perth, and having to reconnect. As the dancers come from a wide range of backgrounds, some of them growing up in places like South Africa, Mauritius, and Reunion Island, one of the recurring themes was worrying that they weren’t “Chinese enough” to be accepted. It is this aspect of the production that was the most touching, as the stories were told with humour and pathos and demonstrated the importance of community organisations like Chung Wah, and community arts programmes, in helping people find the connection we all strive for.

The production ended with all the dancers performing a fan dance, dressed in red cheongsams, to ABBA’s Dancing Queen, a phenomenal and fittingly show-stopping finale to the evening. Chung Wah Dance Group have given us a memorable early Lunar New Year present, and this is a troupe to keep your eye out for, whether it be part of a larger programme such as the New Year concert in Northbridge, or a stand-alone performance like this one. In a Fringe that is a sea of mindless and disposable comedy or teeth-gnashingly pretentious self-indulgence, this simple, well-produced piece full of personal truths and beautiful dances is a unique pearl that will stand as this year’s highlight.

Image provided by theatre company

Reviewer Note: Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.



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