Stage Door News

Toronto: Harbourfront and DanceWorks present “Deciphers” by Naishi Wang and Jean Abreu February 8-10

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Harbourfront Centre and DanceWorks present the Ontario premiere of the thought-provoking dance/theatre hybrid Deciphers, performed and choreographed by independent dancemakers Naishi Wang and Jean Abreu, on stage February 8–10, 2024 at 7:30pm at Harbourfront Centre Theatre, as part of its 2023/24 international contemporary dance series, Torque. This contemporary duet is an intensely physical cultural exchange between dancers, investigating post-colonial histories, the migrant experience and the transcendent nature of human identity.

“We are delighted to present the debut of two visionary dance artists, Naishi Wang and Jean Abreu, for our 2023/24 season of Torque,” says Nathalie Bonjour, Director, Performing Arts at Harbourfront Centre. “As part of Harbourfront Centre’s Technical Residency program, we had the honour of supporting the development of this timely new work, which demonstrates the extraordinary use of the body as a tool of linguistic expression to fuel cross-cultural understanding and meaningful dialogue in our increasingly complex and globalized world.”

Pairing elements of traditional Chinese and Brazilian dance styles with spoken word, Deciphers explores the complexities of communication across cultural divides, drawing from Wang and Abreu’s unique and lived immigrant experiences. Wang grew up in China and trained in martial arts and Chinese classical and folk dances before emigrating to Toronto in 2004 to study dance at the Dance Arts Institute (formerly School of Toronto Dance Theatre). Abreu was raised in Brazil before moving to London, UK in 1996 to study at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire for Music and Dance. Together, the pair explore their dual cultural experiences and vocal traditions in the folk music of their birth countries.

In development since 2020, the 60-minute work is the culmination of virtual and in-person exploratory sessions between the collaborators, resulting in a signature dance/theatre hybrid. Pairing fluid movement and energetic rhythm sequences – a nod to their foundational training in folk dance, Chinese classical and Brazilian traditional dances – the choreography is countered by streams of bilingual spoken word and a minimalist stage design, evoking a raw emotional vulnerability.

Deciphers includes lighting design by Lucie Bazzo, visual design by Ivy Wang, sound design by Olesia Onykllenko, dramaturgical advice from Guy Cools and outside eye Ginelle Chagnon.

Following its Ontario premiere, Deciphers will be performed in Montreal at MAI (Montréal, Arts Interculturels) from February 14–17 and in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre from February 22–23.

Wang and Abreu will participate in a post-show Q&A on February 9.

To purchase tickets and for more information about Deciphers and the complete Torque 2023/24 season, please visit

Photo: Naishi Wang and Jean Abreu. © 2023 Maya Yoncali.