Gravity & Other Myths, A Simple Space. Credit Chris Herzfeld

Wire #19: Re-engaging with China

Wed 29 Nov 2023

Before the pandemic, for many Australian performing artists and companies China was a growing market, with enduring relationships built between artists, producers and presenters, and a demonstrated demand from Chinese audiences for Australian performance. The huge global disruptions of the last few years have left many Australian creatives and producers uncertain about the way forward in renewing these important relationships and making new ones.

October 2023 saw the 22nd edition of China Shanghai International Arts Festival performing arts fair (ChinaSPAF) take place for the first time since 2019. Hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism, ChinaSPAF is an internationally significant arts market. The 2023 edition engaged over 300 in-person delegates, including over 150 international delegates from around the world, signalling that China is very much open for performing arts business.

In this APAM Wire we’ll hear international perspectives on ChinaSPAF and China’s renewed appetite for international performance work. Colleagues with long-standing and more recent experience of touring in China will share their insights and learnings on cultural and economic contexts, audience development, and the critical importance of building and maintaining trusted relationships.

This event has now passed.


Alison Friedman
Alison is currently the executive and artistic director for Carolina Performing Arts. Prior to joining CPA, Alison was the artistic director for performing arts for the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority in Hong Kong, and has worked with renowned artists across Asia, Europe, Australia, South America and the United States. Her extensive global experience aligns perfectly with CPA’s mission to spark curiosity and inspire its community to engage more fully with the world. During her time in West Kowloon, Alison led the dance, theatre, music and Chinese opera (xiqu) teams at Xiqu Centre and Freespace, the first two performing arts venues to open in West Kowloon Cultural District. She also oversaw program planning for Xiqu Centre and Freespace and future venues being built in the district, including performances, workshops and outreach events. As acting executive director, Alison led all aspects of production including budgeting, fundraising, administration and human resources, in addition to her regular duties. Her accomplishments include launching an annual indoor-outdoor jazz festival that reached tens of thousands in its inaugural two years, developing an intergenerational program designed for Hong Kong’s underserved elderly population and their families and caregivers, and spearheading Hong Kong’s first digital programming in response to COVID-19 theatre closures in January 2020. Prior to her work in West Kowloon, Alison was founder and executive and creative director of Ping Pong Productions, a pioneering non-profit performing arts exchange organisation based in Beijing that presented more than 250 performance and outreach events annually across five continents. She also has completed an arts management fellowship program at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Alison’s professional experience in performing arts includes leadership roles with Oscar and Grammy-winner Tan Dun’s company Parnassus Productions and the Beijing Modern Dance Company.

Lynn Fu
With over 15 years’ experience in the arts and culture, Lynn is a Shanghai/New York-based independent curator, consultant and producer in the performing arts. Before going independent, she worked at the British Council in Shanghai for many years. Lynn is an ISPA Global Fellow and Edinburgh Fringe associate. She has sat on several curatorial panels for international platforms and festivals, including APAM and Edinburgh Fringe. Her career focuses on international collaboration and production between China, Asia and the rest of the world. Her interest lies in exploring new possibilities of connecting people through the performing arts. During the pandemic, Lynn worked with the Goethe Institute Shanghai consulting on disability and inclusion in East Asia. She was also the China Market Advisor for Creative Australia. In 2021, she co-founded Arts Access Shanghai, a platform to increase access to Shanghai’s cultural institutions for the local disability community through connection, education and advocacy. A Shanghai native, Lynn holds an MA in Arts Administration from Columbia University. She also studied in France, Japan and Korea. Passionate about cultural diversity, she speaks four languages and has travelled to 50 countries around the world. Find more at

Carolyn Atkinson
Carolyn is the Counsellor (Public Affairs) at the Australian Embassy in Beijing. Her role is to strengthen understanding of Australia within China. Carolyn is a career diplomat. She was Counsellor (Political-Economic) at the Australian High Commission in Singapore from 2016 until June 2019. From 2013 until 2015, Carolyn was seconded as an adviser to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. She was First Secretary (Economic) at Australia’s Embassy in the Philippines from 2008 until 2011. Prior to this Carolyn worked in a variety of roles, including in consular crisis management, economic and public diplomacy, and trade. Carolyn joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2006, prior to which she worked at the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.

Jacob Randell
Jacob was following in the footsteps of his father and two brothers in pursuing a career in engineering when he raised eyebrows by putting his studies on hold to embark on international touring as a full-time acrobat. A founding member of what has become one of Australia’s largest and most successful contemporary circus companies, Jake attended Adelaide youth circus school, Cirkidz, from age 9. What started out as a hobby, soon became a career, when he and five others from his Cirkidz class formed Gravity & Other Myths and toured with their first show Freefall. The creation and premiere of A Simple Space in early 2013 cemented the transition from hobby to career. The group took the show to Edinburgh Festival Fringe and received so much interest that Jake deferred his degree to take part in the international tour. Jake has been performing, creating and touring full time with GOM ever since. In his off-stage time while touring, Jacob completed a Bachelor of Business Administration and Management, a Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning, and contributes to the company’s management as Financial Controller. In addition to ensuring the GOM team is functioning at its peak, Jacob is involved with implementing the company’s business strategy and loves the challenge of problem solving on the fly. Jacob has always loved performing and can’t believe his luck in winning the “job lottery” which allows him to train, perform and travel with a group of his best friends. Whilst the onstage moments give him the adrenaline hit he loves night after night, it’s the offstage moments that will stay with him for life. Traveling the world with GOM has enabled Jacob countless great memories with friends at festivals all over the world. Some highlight moments include snowboarding in Canada, sailing in Croatia, salsa dancing in Sao Paulo and safariing in Zimbabwe.

Dominic Chang
Dom is Producer at Sydney Dance Company. He has over two decades of experience in national and international touring in regions including mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In 2017, he undertook a three-month professional placement at the Shanghai International Dance Center. He has been a consistent representative for the Company in its long-standing relationship with Shanghai International Arts Festival, as well as expanding existing touring pathways alongside exploring new opportunities in the region. Most recently Dom has been undertaking intensive market development activities focussing on reigniting presenter engagement post-pandemic, including in the context of the evolving geopolitical situation in the region.

Andrew Threlfall – panel facilitator
Andrew is a producer, marketer and performer with more than 20 years’ experience in Australia and internationally. He has produced more than 30 productions for CDP Theatre Producers across a wide range of genres, including new works from both book-based and musical sources, and premiered shows at all major performing arts centres in Australia and New Zealand and a range of international venues, including in Singapore, the USA, the UAE, China, Hong Kong and the Netherlands. One of Australia’s most experienced touring producers, particularly of work for young audiences, Andrew also has extensive background in audience research and development and venue management. After joining CDP in 2009, Andrew became a Director in 2011, and since 2016 has led the company along with fellow Director Yolande White.