For this program, Artistic Director, Rafael Bonachela has divided the Sydney Dance Company into two separate groups of eight dancers. Bonachela has worked with one group to create a work entitled Ocho, and invited Taiwanese choreographer, Cheng Tsung-Lung, has worked with the other group for his creation, Full Moon. Together these two works, under the umbrella title of Orb, provide an evening of stunning contemporary dance which absorbing, sexy and exciting.
For his first work on the Sydney Dance Company, Cheng Tsung-Lung has employed an Asian fusion dance style and a celestial theme to create Full Moon. His dancers, representing various oriental deities, were costumed individually, in a variety of elegant flowing costumes, mixed with exotic sculptural shapes.
They moved in and out of the shadowy, atmospheric lighting executing seemingly endless complex and graceful combinations to create a meditative, Zen-like mood, enhanced by an atmospheric score by Lim Giong, which interweaves the sounds of traditional Taiwanese instruments with sophisticated electronica.
As the work progressed, a black curtain rose at the back of the stage to reveal a huge gold frame against an elegant, superbly lit backdrop, gracefully confirming the celestial theme of the work.
In complete contrast, both in mood and style, Rafael Bonachela’s work Ocho, a Spanish word for eight, commenced mysteriously with dramatic lighting stabbing through blackness. Several figures are eventually revealed, enclosed in a small glass fronted room, which later turns out to be part of a much larger space. The dancer’s costumes, grunge variations of active-wear, suggest that this may be a gymnasium. The mood is sensuous and erotic, as the dancers mill restlessly around the small room.
Then one dancer, Nelson Earl, escapes and performs an extraordinary solo. The mood suddenly becomes explosive and dynamic, accentuated by a driving soundscape from Nick Wales, which incorporates lightning strikes which herald a succession of aggressive solos and combinations.
Eventually the work dissolves into an affecting unison section, performed to the sounds of Yolngu songman, Rrawun Maymuru, performing a songline referring to the passage between the Earth and the Milky Way, neatly referencing the theme of the first work Full Moon.
In his program notes, Bonachela indicates that the impetus for his work was to explore the virtuosity of his eight dancers. Ocho certainly succeeds in this. Cheng Tsung-Lung has been equally successful showcasing the individuality of his eight dancers in Full Moon.
While both works are clearly ensemble pieces, Orb is also a spectacular celebration of the sixteen remarkable dancers who make up the current Sydney Dance Company, together with the talented designers, composers and technical staff who surround them. It is also a compelling demonstration of the extraordinary talent and foresight of the director who leads them.
Canberra Theatre Centre, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Thursday 25 May 2017 – 7.30pm
Season: 25 – 27 May 2017
For more information, visit: www.sydneydancecompany.com for details.
Image: Ocho – photo by Pedro Greig
Review: Bill Stephens OAM