The body speaks: Naishi Wang and Jean Abreu’s Deciphers

Two men holding a large cloth on a stage during a performance.
Naishi Wang + Jean Abreu in Deciphers. © Maya Yoncali
Two men embracing each other tightly in a dimly lit room.
Naishi Wang + Jean Abreu in Deciphers. © Maya Yoncali

The seeds of Deciphers were sown during the pandemic. At a time when many sought new ways to connect amid isolation, contemporary dance artists Naishi Wang and Jean Abreu explored these same emotions through their experiences as immigrants.

As Anya Wassenberg from Ludwig Van Toronto, writes “For audience members who don’t have firsthand experience of immigration, the performance speaks to universal elements of communication/miscommunication, and co-existence in a crowded world.”

Naishi, who was born in Changchun, China, emigrated to Toronto in 2004 and Jean, a native of Brazil, moved to London, UK in 1996. Worlds apart, they collaborated through the Visiting Dance Artist Program, a joint initiative of the Canada Council for the Arts and the NAC, to explore how the body can be used as a tool of linguistic expression.

Their collaboration began virtually with weekly exercises, discussions, inspirations and writings, along with a shared movement practice. Jean says “When the pandemic happened, it felt as if the whole ground underneath was just gone. It was very important to feel that an organization like the NAC was able to be a strong rock for us to hold on to. The NAC was very quick to say ‘Don’t worry, this is going to happen. We’ll wait.’”

Naishi and Jean’s compelling performance was well worth the wait.

Fast forward to November 2021, when Naishi and Jean met for the first time in person at the NAC for a four-week artistic residency. During the residency, the seeds that they planted for nearly two years during the lockdown flourished to become a piece that is dynamic, constantly evolving, and honest.

Finally, after four years, Naishi and Jean bring Deciphers to the NAC stage February 22 and 23 as part of the 2023–24 NAC Dance season.

Generous donors of the NAC’s professional development programs give artists like Naishi and Jean the time and space to explore their creativity. “The NAC really understood our needs,” Naishi says. “They provided inspirational resources to us and had a mutual understanding of where we meet. For that, we really want to appreciate the Visiting Dance Artist Program for this huge opportunity.”

Thank you for creating critical opportunities for dance artists like Naishi and Jean to collaborate and bring their shared vision across the country and beyond. Their work has been performed at Vancouver’s PuSh Festival, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto and MAI, Montréal, with plans to tour to the UK.

Join more than 6,500 champions of performance, creation and learning by supporting Canadian artists, educators and students through the NAC Foundation.

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