Thursday, September 12, 2013

Project Rameau

Project Rameau Sydney Dance Company - choreography by Rafael Bonachela; Australian Chamber Orchestra – guest director Dale Barltrop.  Lighting and set design: Benjamin Cisterne.  Costume design: Rafel Bonachela and Fiona Holley.  Music editor and arranger: Graham Sadler.  Dance director: Amy Hollingsworth.  Canberra Theatre Centre, September 12-14, 2013.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
September 12

Music and dance for the sake of music and dance.  This collaboration between the artistic directors Richard Tognetti (ACO) and Rafael Bonachela (SDC) is perhaps the most accessible modern dance work one can imagine – thoroughly imbued with the energy of youth.

It is a celebration of the ebb and flow of life, in social groups with a tremendous sense of community; in couples drifting together and drifting apart; as individuals expressing the mood of the moment; in times of reflection; in times of grand enjoyment.  The joy and satisfaction at the end of an hour’s continuous engagement in the sound and sights of this performance moved the audience to applaud for curtain call after curtain call.

The skills of the ACO musicians and the SDC dancers were beyond reproach – indeed far beyond my understanding.  How they can do it I don’t know, but the effect is mesmerising.

The music is not all by Jean-Philippe Rameau.  For example, Vivaldi’s storm, the presto from Summer, The Four Seasons provided an opportunity to see youth temporarily at the mercy of events outside of themselves, which, of course, they usually gaily ignore.

The stage design was interesting, with the orchestra upstage and a part of the performance instead of being relegated to the pit.  This meant the cueing, the beat and the mood of each of the twenty numbers in the show was immediately in the control of all the  performers – dancers and musicians – working as a unified group.  The result was an electricity lighting up each piece dramatically.

Though the simple black costumes and the modern technology in the lighting created a very much up-to-date 21st Century style, the ensemble quality with the visible live orchestra behind the dancers somehow seemed appropriate for this music originally written and performed in Rameau’s 18th Century operas, ten of which are represented here.  The atmosphere as the performance concluded was surely very like that in the opera houses of France where Rameau’s work was so popular.

Was this a worthwhile project?  Absolutely, in my view.

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