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East meets West in three ways in mixing Triaspora

The creators of a new dance, music and multimedia work are hoping the way they reshape the narratives of Chinese immigrants will enable all Canadians to identify with the stories.

The creators of a new dance, music and multimedia work are hoping the way they reshape the narratives of Chinese immigrants will enable all Canadians to identify with the stories.

Called Triaspora, the 70-minute work will be performed Friday and Saturday at the Telus Studio Theatre at the Chan Centre.

Triaspora has been created by a collaborative ensemble that includes the Orchid Ensemble and Moving Dragon, one a musical group and the other a dance company. Both are dedicated to weaving together Asian and Western traditions.

According to the Vancouver-based husband and wife team of Jessica Jone and Chengxin Wei of Moving Dragon, the idea for Triaspora started with composer and musician Lan Tung. While she and Ya-wen Vivienne Wang were interviewing Chinese-Canadians, they discovered the story of Della Tse and her mother Jenny Chan.

They were both Cantonese Opera stars whose lives were in constant motion. Called Della’s Different Train, the composition includes Della’s words as well as rhythms and sounds inspired by VIA trains, Toronto subway trains and Steve Reich’s influential composition Different Trains.

Della’s Different Train explores the idea of travel and the physical movement of immigrants from their homeland to their new land. It forms the third and final part of Triaspora, a word coined from diaspora, referring to a people relocated from their place of origin, and the three-part arrangement of the work.

Part 1 opens with Wei, a dancer with Ballet BC, partially wrapped in white fabric and moving as if under water. Inspired by Vancouver’s Chinatown, which was originally built on swampy land that was once submerged, the movement and multimedia projections explore the idea of being trapped between two cultures.

Part 2 is about fire. It was inspired by the 1960 blaze that burned down Nanaimo’s Chinatown. At the time, the city’s Chinese Canadian community was located on the border between two fire departments. When firefighters did respond, it was too late to save the old wooden buildings. The city’s Chinatown has never been rebuilt.

Echoing Triaspora’s combination of Chinese and Canadian influences, Jone and Wei are both trained in dance disciplines from east and west.

Jone, born in Vancouver, started dancing when she was four and received her early training from her mother Loretta Leung. She then moved to China and studied Chinese classical dance at the Beijing Dance Academy. She’s also a graduate of the dance program at Simon Fraser University.

Wei started dancing when he was 11 and met Jone when they were both at the Beijing Dance Academy. After a stint as a principal dancer with the Guangdong Provincial Dance Theatre, he came to Canada in 2000 and has danced with several Vancouver companies.

“Our dance style reflects what is going on in dance in Vancouver right now,” Jone said, adding that they borrow from a range of traditions, including ballet, contemporary and Chinese dance.

Wei said Moving Dragon is all about finding the movement that feels right regardless of the discipline it may be from.

“Of course, we’ll have lots of influences from Chinese styles but we’re trying to break the forms — and create just body dance.”

The Orchid Ensemble is comprised of Tung on erhu (Chinese violin), Gelina Jiang on zheng (Chinese zither) and Jonathan Bernard on percussion. The group’s unique sound is being increasingly recognized around North America. Recent appearances include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., Canada Day Celebrations at the National Gallery in Ottawa and at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.

Earlier this spring, the ensemble performed at Cafe de Chintas — an Asian-themed flamenco dance performance — on Granville Island at Edie Hats.

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Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Telus Studio Theatre, Chan Centre, UBC

Tickets at or 604-280-3311