Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts 2020 Program Announcement – Part 1

  In its second iteration,  Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts will return from January – March 2020 to celebrate the creative imagination of artists and cultures in the Asia-Pacific region. The stunning and multi-art form collection of works over the three-month long festival of Asian, Australian and Pacific performing arts and public programming will explore the connections between contemporary Australia and its growing diaspora.

Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts  2020 Program Part 1 – ICONS & LEGENDS

In an Asia TOPA world premiere season, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company (Australia) and Te Rēhia Theatre (Aotearoa/New Zealand) present BLACK TIES  from 21 – 29 February 2020, a hilarious and heart-warming immersive theatre experience that reimagines the wedding rom-com from a distinctively First Nations perspective when two families and two cultures come together. This ground-breaking collaboration between major First Nations performing arts companies was made possible by the Asia TOPA Creative Labs and subsequently commissioned by the Major Festivals Initiative (MFI).

In an Asia TOPA exclusive from 12 – 15 March 2020, the deeply moving family saga of exile and longing, SAIGON  is both epic in scale and heart-rending in its intimacy. This is a rare work of universal theatre that speaks across cultures where French-Vietnamese director, Caroline Guiela Nguyen, spent two years gathering stories in Paris and Saigon to create this compelling drama. Performed in French and Vietnamese with English surtitles, the story swings between Saigon in 1956, as French colonialists prepare to leave Vietnam, and Paris in 1996, when Vietnamese exiles are allowed to return to the country for the first time.

Few works can claim to have pioneered a new art form, but À Ố Làng Phố  has left audiences the world over enthralled by the extraordinary possibilities conjured when bamboo and circus meet. The title translates as “from village to city”, and over the course of this magical performance an expanding metropolis is constructed from bamboo poles, woven boats and baskets. Directed by former Cirque du Soleil choreographer Tuấn Lê and set to a live score featuring traditional Vietnamese music and modern sounds, this vibrant portrait of a world in motion will leave audiences of all ages spellbound from 27 – 29 February 2020.

The vast histories, philosophies and cultures of China and India meet in a breathtaking work of dance and storytelling commissioned by Asia TOPA. Created and performed by international dance artists Aakash Odedra (UK/India) and  Hu Shenyuan (China), Samsara merges mythological storytelling with personal experience and will mesmerise audiences from 5 – 7 March 2020. Inspired by the historical events recounted in the 16th century Chinese classic Journey to the West, this epic world premiere is an unprecedented expression of cultural exchange through the language of dance, drawing upon the diverse disciplines of ballet, contemporary dance, Chinese folk dance and the classical Indian dance form Kathak.

Following four sold-out performances with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) in April 2018, legendary composer-conductor Joe Hisaishi returns with an even bigger encore performance of Music from the Studio Ghibli Films of Hayao Miyazaki  in the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on 29 February 2020. This mega event, exclusive to Melbourne, will see Hisaishi lead the MSO, multiple choirs, special guest soloists and a marching band in an evening of film nostalgia featuring some of the most beloved Ghibli scenes.

Prior to this, on 26 February 2020 Joe Hisaishi  will perform a special, Australian exclusive concert at Hamer Hall in an evening celebrating his contributions to contemporary symphonic repertoire and orchestral works. This will include symphonic fantasy ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’ and the Australian premiere of ‘The East Land Symphony’. Audiences will experience the range and depth of this prolific composer as performed by MSO.

For one night only on 27 February 2020, pioneering Japanese electronic composer and visual artist Ryoji Ikeda will present  datamatics [ver. 2.0] live in a double bill at Hamer Hall with the Australian premiere of Shiro by visual art and musical duo NONOTAK (illustrator Noemi Schipfer, architect and musician Takami Nakamoto). datamatics [ver. 2.0] takes the seemingly mundane – data – and uses it as a source for breath-taking sounds and visuals, while Shiro is an ethereal, immersive, audio-visual performance reaching transcendent states of illumination and sound.

Celebrated TV writer, Benjamin Law is one of this country’s brightest literary stars. From 8 February – 21 March 2020, his hysterically funny and moving stage premiere Torch the Place  will show his effortless self-deprecating wit to spark joy in the clutter, and find truth in those crazy moments that bring families closer together. This work was commissioned through MTC’s NEXT STAGE Writers’ Program.

Further to Asia TOPA’s icons and legends programming announcement, presented as part of Asia TOPA is Meeting Points Series: Hand to Earth a collaboration between Arts Centre Melbourne and the Australian Art Orchestra. On 23 February 2020, one of Korea’s most sought after jazz vocalists Sunny Kim, Yolngu song-man from North East Arnhem Land Daniel Wilfred and multidisciplinary musician Peter Knight will sing of the stars, fire and cooling rain against Knight’s floating trumpet notes and electronic crackles. Their effortless collaboration spans continents and cultures, expressing a deeply human commonality.

Now in its seventh year, MSO’s Chinese New Year concert has become one of Australia’s major cultural highlights. On 31 January 2020, eminent Chinese conductor Yi Zhang  leads the MSO in a performance starring young Chinese pianist Jieni Wan. Artistic Director of the National Ballet of China Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra and Zhejiang Philharmonic Orchestra, Zhang makes his MSO debut in this unique musical celebration featuring one of the most important Chinese compositions in the world today.

Arts Centre Melbourne presents
Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts
January – March 2020
Bookings at

Images: Thomas Henning, Jean Louis Fernandez, Justin Ridler