Interplay – Sydney Dance Company

Interplay_GO_LChaim_Wendell TeodoroTo celebrate their 45th Anniversary the Sydney Dance Company, under the artistic direction of Rafael Bonachela, has created Interplay – a program of three works by three different choreographers. The result is a stunning demonstration of the range and diversity of the prodigious skills of the 17 superb dancers who make up the present company.

The first work 2 in D Minor is Rafael Bonachela’s contribution. A lyrical abstract work which utilises the entire company to further explore choreographic ideas encountered while choreographing his acclaimed work Project Rameau.

This time Bonachela draws his inspirations from Bach’s Partita 2 in D Minor, played live on stage by violinist Veronique Serret, who interacts with the dancers as they perform a series of complex, fluid duos and trios based on a motif established by Charmene Yap in a gorgeous solo which commences the work.

Although Bonachela utilises the entire company, they are never all on stage at the same time. One particularly lovely section involves several trios of dancers moving in unison as each trio replaces the other. The various sections of the Partita are punctuated by striking solos danced to a series of stringent electronic samplings, entitled 2inD Miniatures and composed by Nick Wales.

Benjamin Cisterne’s setting for 2 in d Minor is spare but dramatic, consisting of a slanting white rectangle hanging over the stage on which a square of white light marks out the dance area. The lighting moods change subtly to reflect those of the dancers, clad in soft black trousers with flowing jackets and vests designed by Bonachella.

Skilfully they perform endless mesmerising variations perfectly attuned and inspired by the music. 2 in D Minor is a masterful creation and a superb demonstration of Bonachella’s choreographic gifts.

First premiered by the Sydney Dance Company in 2011, and revived for this season, Jocopo Gordani’s work Raw Moves is aggressive, visceral and exciting. It’s danced to an overwhelmingly powerful score by 48nord which reverberates around the theatre as the seven dancers, clad in sleek black costumes designed by Gordani; perform his sweeping spiderlike choreography which according to his program note represents “the prototype of a micro-social structure functioning on communication, empathy and complicity”.

Like this reviewer, you don’t need to understand what that means to be thrilled by the sheer originality of the choreography and the brilliance and  bravery of the dancers as they recklessly drop to the floor, or seductively prowl the stage in a series of fascinating vignettes each separated by a sharp blackout.  Godani has just been appointed Artistic Director of William Forsythe Ballet in Frankfurt, so it is particularly interesting to see this example of his work included in this program.

For the final work in the program, L’Chaim! (To Life), Gideon Obarzanek has drawn his inspiration from his own life in a Kibbutz to produce a charming work which utilises the full company. The curtain rises to reveal the dancers, clad in non-descript rehearsal clothes, studiously rehearsing a routine.

Reminiscent of A Chorus Line, a disembodied voice (in Canberra, Gideon Obarzanek himself) interrupts the dancing, by calling out from behind the audience, questions about how they feel about their lives as dancers. “Are you Grumpy? “Is that why you tend to dance with your face?  How old are you? How long do you have left?”

The rest of the dancers attempt to ignore the questioning and maintain the routine, but as those being questioned become rattled by the questioner’s persistence, the dance slowly grinds to a halt. The questioner eventually joins the dancers on stage and they resume their rehearsing.

Disarming in its apparent simplicity, and surprisingly revealing, L”Chaim! Is a succinct reminder that dancers are people too, as well as providing a satisfying and thoughtful conclusion to a superb program of exceptional dance.

Canberra Theatre, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Thursday 10 April 2014
Season: 10 – 12 April 2014

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Image: Gideon Obarzanek’s L’Chaim! – photo by Wendell Teodoro

Review: Bill Stephens