Frame of Mind presented by the Sydney Dance Company as part of the Canberra Theatre Centre’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, consists of two ravishing dance works. Raphael Bonachela choreographed the title work, which showcases the entire company in an ethereal work danced to a suite of original compositions composed by Bryce Dessner for the Kronos Quartet.
The work is also graced by a beautiful setting designed by Ralph Myers, and artfully lit by Ben Cistern, which suggests a large dance studio in which the walls are covered with maps. Overhead are banks of fluorescent lights, and at one end a large window through which sunlight streams.
The dancers, wearing individual variations of black practice clothes, come and go. Some practice individual virtuoso moves, either solo, or in various groups. Around the perimeters, others argue, flirt, exercise, or simply silently observe. At various points they all join in to dance intricate unison passages, adding to the drama and spectacle.
The choreography is endlessly inventive, the dancing brilliant, and every dancer gets a moment to shine. The interactions of the dancers suggest narratives but Bonachela leaves it to the individual audience members to arrive at their own interpretations of this masterful and memorable work.
Although choreographed more than 20 years ago, Quintett which preceded Frame of Mind is a recognised masterwork of choreographer, William Forsythe. Presented on a stage bare except for a large mirror, and a spotlight which projected images on the dancers, Quintett is danced to Gavin Bryars’ haunting composition which features the voice of a homeless man singing, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me played in endless loops for the full duration of the work.
Quintett requires five virtuoso dancers possessing the stamina and skills to perform a stream of intricate deconstructions of traditional classical ballet steps. Chloe Leong, Jesse Scales, David Mack, Cass Mortimer Eipper and Sam Young-Wright are exactly that. All are astonishing dancers, who, while appearing to throw themselves into the choreography with reckless abandon, still manage to maintain remarkable control over every movement.
Although composed by Forsythe as an elegy to his dancer wife who was, at the time, dying with cancer, and who indeed died before the work was completed, Quintett has many joyous passages and in these Chloe Leong in her bright yellow dress was captivating. But it was former Canberra dancer, Sam Young-Wright, who mesmerised the audience from the moment he stepped forward to perform the series of classical ballet steps which establish the parameters of the work.
In a recent radio interview, Bonachella described Young-wright as ‘a young star’, and there were few in the audience who would argue with that assessment. Young-Wright with his tall, rangy physique already possesses a charismatic presence and a wonderfully fluid movement quality that makes it hard to take your eyes off him whenever he is on stage.
The Sydney Dance Company is without a doubt, Australia’s leading contemporary dance company. It has been touring to Canberra regularly for close to forty years, during which time it has built up a strong, loyal following. The enthusiastic reception accorded Frame of Mind by the first night audience, will ensure that their 2015 visit will remain a highlight of the Canberra Theatre Centre’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations.
Frame of Mind
Canberra Theatre Centre, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Thursday 30 April 2015
Season: 30 April – 2 May 2015
Frame of Mind will also be performed at Melbourne’s Southbank Theatre: 6 – 16 May 2015. For more information, visit: www.sydneydancecompany.com for details.
Image: Sam Young Wright in William Forsythe’s Quintett – photo by Peter Greig
Review: Bill Stephens