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Ab [intra]: Sydney Dance Company, May 2018

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Ab [intra] is the first full length work made by Raphael Bonachela, choreographer and artistic director of Sydney Dance Company,  in 6 years. In the program notes,  he says he wanted to capture the movement from his internal creative process to the externality of performance. That may well be so, but I did not experience it in that way. It is a wonderful work, deeply human and engaging, but that narrative, if narrative it is, escaped me. The dancers start scattered across an unadorned stage before individually exploding into action; all sharp, often turned inward angles, staccato and sudden.  In pairs and more commonly threesomes they interact and twine together, but do not trully engage, breaking apart and walking off without a backward glance. Against this are two gloriously soft and sensual pdd, the dancers twined round each other in ways impossible to describe, angles rounded and gentle, the dancers completely engrossed in one another. Between these two pdd an anguished and contorted male solo that was swept away by all 14 other dancers dancing mostly individually but at times coordinated.

The motionlessness of the dancers before, as I said, they exploded into action made me think about the difference between stillness and motionlessness in dance. Last year, as half of another wonderful program, SDC presented Full Moon, by Cheng Tsung-lung, Artistic Director of Taiwan's Cloud Gate 2. (In the interest of transparency, I should confess that for me Cloud Gate is one of the great dance companies of the world, and Cloud Gate 2 is not far behind.) Anyway, the stillness of Cheng Trung-lung's dancers was utter stillness, radical, complete in itself, with no reference to the possibility of movement. Those dancers who were still were dynamic in their stillness, drawing the eye like exclamation points.  Dancers in ab [intra] generally started motionless, but this was a stillness that carried within it the suggestion, or promise of motion. I don't  mean to suggest that one is better than the other, but the comparison leapt to the eye, given that it was the  same company, the same theatre and even the same time of year.☺.

Sorry if all that was way too obscure. The take home is that ab [intra] represents another triumph for SDC. They travel a great deal. If they are dancing near you, drop everything!

Edited by jmb
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Sadly, you are right, Janet. And they were in Paris, at the Theatre National de la Danse, Chaillot, only a month ago. Bit late now to say 'Drop everything'. 

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I wish they would come to the UK. I first saw SDC at school in the 1970s, when they were a touring dance-in-education group, known as NSW Dance Company. When I went to university in Sydney, they'd just received State funding & changed their name to Sydney Dance Company. I think I saw almost every production while I still lived in Sydney, and took classes in their evening programme several nights a week.


Graeme Murphy does extraordinary things with putting people's bodies together - I was always surprised by his inventiveness with pas de deux particularly. And the then (it may have changed) easy combination of classical and contemporary dance technique, together with the typical Australian athleticism, made for a unique and utterly luscious & beautiful dance style. The SDC were very cool and chic throughout the 80s. And also hugely moving - the piece choreographed to Tavener's The Protecting Veil always had me in tears. 

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