Sydney Dance Company: momenta

Sydney Dance Company momenta photo by Pedro GriegAs Charmene Yap explained in her charming curtain speech just before the performance began, momenta is the plural of momentum, which means movement or motion, so it was the opportunity to explore concepts of momentum that led to the creation of momenta  by Rafael Bonachela.

It’s Bonachela’s interest in the possibility of exploring intellectual challenges through dance that separates him from other choreographers and has resulted in a succession of engrossing abstract dance works.

Then just when you think he can’t possibly outdo his last creation, he raises the bar again. momenta is a sublime work which commences with a lone male dancer in a spotlight performing a series of convoluted intricate movements.

A change in the lighting state reveals ten more dancers lying on their backs who repeat the movements, executing them in perfect unison. One by one the dancers rise from the floor and continue with individual complex moves, careering around the stage, connecting and disconnecting in a kaleidoscopic whirl of movement before disappearing into a thick mist.

As the mist begins to clear, huge flying saucer-like set of lights begins to ascend from the stage its fierce light revealing four dancers who continue inventing movements while the others observe then from the sideline until they too share the spotlight in a complex series of duos, trios and quartets.

Eventually the lights tilt then slowly rise further to reveal more and more of the stage and the movement expands into exhilarating broad, sweeping choreography which dazzles with its complexity and invention until, after seventy minutes, in a shower of silver flitter-flutter, fifteen superb dancers resume their original positions on the floor and the space-ship lights lower to focus on the lone male dancer who continues to maintain the momentum until the final blackout. The total effect is mesmerising.

AAR Sydney Dance Company momenta photo by Pedro GriegDamien Cooper’s lighting design with its changing intensity and beguiling use of colour is as essential a component as Nick Wales’ hypnotic soundscape which contains its own surprises with its sudden change of atmosphere and dynamics resulting from the introduction Peteris Vasks’ classically based composition Distant Light.

Although momenta is determinedly plotless, constantly changing groupings tease the viewer with suggestions of sensual possibilities, aided by Elizabeth Gadsby and Emma White’s body-hugging, flesh coloured costumes which although individually designed for each dancer, tended to render them anonymous. A factor not helped by the lack of a printed program.

For although this reviewer was provided with a digital copy of the excellent program, audience members wanting to access artist biographies and creative’s explanations had to rely on the ubiquitous QR code, available in the foyer. Very few appeared to bother with those.

Therefore as each of the extraordinary ensemble of dancers deserves recognition for their contribution, here are their names. Timmy Blankenship, Anika Boet, Dean Elliott, Riley Fitzgerald, Tayla Gartner, Liam Green, Luke Hayward, Morgan Hurrell, Ngaere Jenkins, Sophie Jones, Naiara de Matos, Connor McMahon, Ryan Pearson, Piram Scott, Emily Seymour, Coco Wood, Chloe Young.

Another masterpiece from the fertile imagination of Rafael Bonachella, momenta is touring widely. When it comes your way don’t miss the opportunity to see this example of the Sydney Dance Company at its very best.

Playhouse – Canberra Theatre Centre, Civic Square, Canberra
Performance: Friday 21 June 2024
Season: 21 – 22 June 2024

Sydney Dance Company will present momenta in a National Tour. For more information including locations and dates, visit: for details.

Image: Artists of Sydney Dance Company in momenta – photo by Pedro Grieg

Review: Bill Stephens OAM