Fire Monkey

Posted by Milk Bar Mag on 6/12/16.

Mapping Melbourne 2016 will feature an exciting set of performances that will explore the theme of Asia and identity, which will consist of visual art, live art, contemporary dance, music, public programs and unique multidisciplinary collaborations.

One of the events includes Fire Monkey, a collaborative performance curated by Singapore-based Asian dance laboratory Arts Fission and Melbourne-based choreographer and dancer Victoria Chiu. Milk Bar Mag had a chat to Angela Liong, the artistic director of Fire Monkey, all about the idea processes behind the performance and how it effectively encapsulates the theme of the festival.

‘The title came up during our early discussion between Victoria and myself,’ says Angela. ‘Since 2016 is the Year of Monkey under the element of Fire, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, hence the name Fire Monkey offers a vivid imagery with strong cultural colours that provides much possibilities for creative exploration.’

Angela mentions that the monkey is an important figure in Asian mythologies: ‘It appears in many folklores as well as epics and legends like the Indian’s Ramayana, which has influence on the socio-folkoric traditions of Southeast Asia, and the Chinese’s Journey to the West, which has influence on folk religions and mythologies in East Asia.’

The concept of Fire Monkey also derives from the element of fire; Angela states that ‘the element comprises fire’s duality of life and death and qualities of destruction and benevolence. Fire is a universal myth that exists in all cultures.’

But in this performance, Fire Monkey may not be referring to a literal monkey figure: ‘The title alludes to a certain life force and dynamics encompassing our modern world,’ Angela says. ‘As a performance creation,Fire Monkey references the various folkloric influences but it also connects to the increasing sense of anxiety and uncertainty that people everywhere are feeling.’


She continues: ‘The performance is presented in many short dance segments that sometimes take place simultaneously at the Arts Centre Melbourne lawn. The format is like traditional street theatre with dancers in modern urban garbs.’

‘Live music performances (comprising percussion instruments of East and West) will also support the dance. There is no fixed seats and audience are encouraged to move around freely to catch performers up-close-and-personal.’

Angela discusses how Fire Monkey will best encapsulate the Asian Australian identity: ‘I hope Fire Monkeyhelps to bring on a distinct Asian perspective that can add to the rich dimension of the Asian Australian identity.’

She continues: ‘Along the way, I also hope this can contribute to the cultural mapping process and enables Melbourne to merge as one of the truly magnanimous cosmopolitans – a liveable city of the new century.’


Collaborating with Victoria Chiu has been a very interesting experience for Angela: ‘She brings on a strong Australian artistic temperament but also a subtle Asian-ness due to her heritage. She is open-minded and direct in her actions and response, but at the same time she brings on a faintly familiar air when we communicate with each other.’

Being a Skype-based collaboration, Angela acknowledges that the virtual communication can be limiting and awkward, particularly since the key members are visceral and tactile performing artists. But the long distance collaboration also requires a strong dose of trust and respect: ‘This is what exchange of cultures is all about: a leap of faith, openness to examine differences and willingness and resourcefulness to tackle arising challenges.’

She continues: ‘But I actually like these attributes that are the integral and organic parts of the artistic process which lead up to the final presentation. We didn’t come together and just present a show, we have to communicate and learn about each other first before the show is a reality.’

Angela hopes that the audience will enjoy the neo-folkloric approach of Fire Monkey, as well as soaking up the fun of immersive street theatre style from the dance and music presentations. ‘Most of all, I truly hope the audience will recognize how enabling arts and culture are to bridge communication beyond all differences,’ she says.

Fire Monkey – Mapping Melbourne 2016
Arts Centre Melbourne Lawn, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Thursday December 1 – Saturday December 17


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