Asia TOPA – Dance Program

Dance has become an art form where language transcends traditional forms of communication and this idea has been explored in the Asia TOPA dance curation.

In a world premiere and Asia TOPA co-commission with Aakash Odedra Company and Bagri Foundation, international dance artists Aakash Odedra (UK/India) and Hu Shenyuan (China) will perform a breathtaking new work called Samsara from 5 – 7 March 2020 at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse.

Inspired by the historical events recounted in the 16th century Chinese classic Journey to the West – which depicts the many journeys of Buddhist philosophy from India to China – this work finds its centre in the vast histories, philosophies and cultures of China and India.

This epic dance piece has been created and developed over an 18-month period through residencies across the UK, the USA and Australia, and will be performed by Odedra and Shenyuan in what is an unprecedented expression of cultural exchange. The two dancers will reframe traditional cultural practice through the language of dance, drawing upon the diverse disciplines of ballet, contemporary dance, Chinese folk dance and the classical Indian dance form kathak.

Merging mythological storytelling with personal experience, audiences will be mesmerised by the intercultural connection Odedra and Hu share, and how it plays part of the deeper mission of Asia TOPA.

“When I met Hu there was an instant connection. We were two bodies but one soul. It feels like I’ve known him before; I can’t explain it. We dance very differently but it’s also similar too. As soon as we’re together our energies become yin and yang; we become one. There’s this unspoken way of working which has allowed us to exchange on a cultural level,” says Odedra.

“When we first met, we didn’t need to translate what we were speaking; it’s a shared understanding from our deep religious practice. We can read a lot from each other just by gazing into each other’s eyes,” says Shenyuan.

“Through this work, we’re seeing different sides to a culture you may be familiar with, but the way we’re collaborating is new and inviting for audiences. This collaboration is a statement of that and breaking down these barriers,” says Shenyuan.

The final creative development of Samsara will take place at Bunjil Place from 16 – 29 February before two preview performances from 1 – 2 March.


In another world premiere and Asia TOPA co-commission with Théâtre de Ville(Paris), Melbourne based Lucy Guerin Inc. and Indonesia’s Ensemble Tikoro team up for a thrilling collaboration called Metal which will run from 24 – 27 February at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse.

Emerging from the Asia TOPA creative labs, Metal has been developed over three years through residencies across Indonesia and Australia where five dancers and eight metal-heads bring together a meeting of cultures, art forms, languages and belief systems.

Co-created by Lucy Guerin and Ensemble Tikoro’s Musical Director Robi Rusdiana, the performance sees heavy metal and traditional throat singing collide with contemporary Australian dance in an encounter that ultimately transforms them both, as the ghosts of tradition merge with music and dance to invent new mythologies for a globalised world.

“Our collaboration is in some ways an artistic and cultural counterpoint; there’s this intense crazy wild energy from the choir and the more refined, precise, disciplined approach from the dancers. These two coming together can add up to something extraordinary,” says Guerin.

Metal was created in both Melbourne and Bandung with its two creators taking a wholly fresh approach. The large-scale, almost intimidating wall of bodies and sound, offer a unique palette for audiences to absorb and unpack the different layers.

My primary inspiration is the choir itself and the different uses of vocals in a choir format. It’s a collaboration between artists who are interested in what each other do and exploring how we might work together and create something out of that meeting for an audience,” says Guerin.

Guerin was awarded Best Dance Work and Best Choreography at the 2018 Helpmann Awards for her debut Asia TOPA work, ATTRACTOR.

Rusdiana’s background in classical music and Baroque music embody the many paradoxes that come with a heavy metal choir, but this collaboration is in a way, a paradox in itself.

As part of the Asia TOPA Public Program, Metal will feature as part of the Asia TOPA takeover at MPavilion in a free, one-hour lunchtime session. On Thursday 27 February, Under the Volcano will be a talk and demonstration featuring Lucy Guerin Inc and Ensemble Tikoro.


Aakash Odedra Company, Arts Centre Melbourne and Bagri Foundation present Samsara
5 – 7 March | Playhouse | 7:30pm and 2pm

Arts Centre Melbourne presents Metal
24 – 27 February | Playhouse | 7pm
27 February | MPavilion | 12:30pm

Bookings at

Peter J Snee

Peter is a British born creative, working in the live entertainment industry. He holds an honours degree in Performing Arts and has over 12 years combined work experience in producing, directing and managing artistic programs & events. Peter has traversed the UK, Europe and Australia pursuing his interest in theatre. He is inspired by great stories and passionately driven by pursuing opportunities to tell them.

Peter J Snee

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