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Tony Yap – An Interview

Copyrighted to Aussie Theatre.

If you type ZeroZero into Google the web definition suggests that it is not contemporary performance that you’re interested in, but rather top quality Moroccan hashish.

The latest dance work by Yumi Umiumare, Tony Yap and Matthew Gingold has in fact nothing whatsoever to do with hashish, but it does have everything to do with exploring the state of emptiness, the moments of zero gravity, and the spiritual arena in which these states occur.

In a recent conversation with choreographer Tony Yap, we spent an hour exploring the process of creating dance works such as ZeroZero and the place that such works occupy within the contemporary performance landscape.

Having worked together for sixteen years in a range of different productions, both Yap and Umiumare have developed a unique choreographic language.

“Yumi [Umiumare] and I have known each other for such a long time and watched each other grow both artistically, and in many other ways, that we have immense trust and confidence in each other, and that gives us the ability to examine certain subjects with innate confidence in each other and in the work.”

ZeroZero is fundamentally the experimental examination of an open mind. When the willingness to question what lies “in-between” is given the space and breath to develop then, as Yap says, “that’s where the magic is!”

“We have spent much time visiting sacred sites and although I’m from Melaka and Yumi from Hyogo, we discovered on our journeys that there were in fact many unexpected crossovers. These discoveries strengthened our relationship as artists, but also as mediators of knowledge and art forms that we are able to carefully sculpt into dance works.”

But Umiumare and Yap aren’t the only two involved in this new work. Matthew Gingold has been vital in the journey towards creating a piece that allows technology to illuminate the particular trance-like states that are necessary for such an in-depth and intimate experience.

“As a team we are seeking to share with our audience a visceral language, one that challenges and goes beyond the vocabulary of choreography and, although there is a structure, also offers the audience little surprises along the way.”

Yap promises that no two shows will be exactly the same, the nature of trance experiences requiring a freedom of expression to manifest whatever the spirit wills, within those key moments of being in a liminal state of emptiness.

“Twenty years ago we would not have the audiences we have today,” explains Yap.  “Our work is now received by an increasingly diverse audience of all ages who are now engaging with what was formerly often dismissed as ‘eastern’ or ‘mystic’,  as contemporary Australian work, undoubtedly, influenced by our strong philosophical and cultural beliefs.”

ZeroZero is a personal work and, with three years of research and development, it is the second installment in a triptych.

As Yap concludes, “This is our own journeys of finding that shy moment, that moment of stillness and we invite our audiences to come along and share in that journey to find, if they choose, their own moments of what that could mean for them.”

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