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Sydney Dance Company: For Ever and Ever, October 2018

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I was on my way to see the Sydney Dance Companies' latest program when I realised that it was Dussehra, a Hindu festival celebrating the victory of good over evil, and sacred to Saraswati, the godess art, music and learning, among others. 'Now that's a good omen', I thought. Then I passed a well-known outdoor sculpture, a very large rock dropped from a great height on a very small car (a vw?), so I was left wondering which omen I should pay attention to. Both, as it turned out. The program offered Raphael Bonachela's Frame of Mind, followed by Antony Hamilton's For Ever and Ever. I really liked Frame of Mind. Frenetic, yes, but engrossing. The stage is stark, and dominated by a great tall window through which light streams. The panes, however, are dirty, and it is impossible to see outside. Interesting, that. The work starts with a woman staring out the window. She is joined by more and more dancers, each of whom dances individually. A pair emerges out of the throng, which melts away, leaving the two to dance a tentative pdd, at first very cautious and gradually become more intimate. This pattern is repeated twice more, the second pdd  being a much more violent affair, while in the third, the two dancers are close, accepting and intimate from the beginning. Angles throughout are generally turned in. Bonachela says of the work, that it 'engages with the aspiration that we all have, to engage and be understood without the need for words: to be held, supported, confronted, lifted and guided by those we hold dear'. Indeed. Music was provided by the Australian String Quartet, on stage, or a least on a projection at the same level as the stage, and playing works by Bryce Dessner, brief blocks of sound that added up to more than the sum of the parts. Overall a satisfying if at times confronting work.

I wish I could say the same of Forever and Ever. The music was techno, I am informed,  meaning that a single five note drum beat dominated for 35 minutes. The composer, Julian Hamilton, is Antony Hamilton's brother. According to Julian, his brother often suggested that he 'do less ... less parts ... make it more repetitive and less complex'. He succeeded. (But then I'm a geriatric with no understanding of contemporary music 😊). There were some potentially interesting ideas. A single dancer (Jesse Scales) dances in darkness (or semi-darkness) on stage as the audience is returning from interval. The normal hum of chatter is abruptly cut off as the stage lights suddenly come up (and, of course, the theatre lights abruptly doused). Her solo is contained, contorted until she is joined on stage by a tightly packed line of dancers who are completely shrouded in black (8 dancers) or white (6 dancers), even their faces hidden behind cotton masks. Given the enveloping nature of their clothing, it is not surprising that the dancing was initially uninspiring. The dancers gradually shed both their shrouds and some of the layers of clothing underneath them, though the dancing remains contorted and constricted. At times however, two or three dancers to the rear of the throng employ much more rounded and lyrical movements, making an interesting contrast. Lighting was interesting. At first some of the dancers carried large square toroches which they turned on briefly at intervals as the stage was drenched in cold white strobe light. At other times the stage was briefly lit in primary colours; red, blue, yellow, green.

Overall, I couldn't discern any narrative, though my companion, a non-dance goer,  felt it was about institutionalisation and the loss of identity that this entails. Perhaps. Overall, my appeciation of Bonachell's work was affirmed; less so my appeciation, or indeed my understanding, of Hamilton's work.


Edited by jmb
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