Saturday, June 5, 2021



Choreographed by Rafael Bonachela . Composed by Bryce Dressner  Canberra Theatre. Canberra Theatre Centre. June 4-5 2021.

I first saw Rafael Bonachela's phenomenal work, Impermanence, at the Adelaide Festival in March. I am re-posting my review at the time, because it is equally applicable to the wonderful performance on the Canberra Theatre stage last night. Accompanied by the virtuoso playing of the Australian String Quartet, Bonachela's dancers have refined their earlier performances to create a visceral power that permeates every moment of this extraordinary work. I sit transfixed by the athletic artistry of the soloists, the grace and beauty of the duets and the sheer  sublime connections of the ensemble. It is the ensemble's fluidity and interconnection, imbued with ultimate trust in the demands that Bonachela makes that I found enthralling in this pinnacle of contemporary dance, inspired by the Notre Dame fire, the Summer bushfires and the sweeping pandemic.

In Impermanence the dancer's body becomes a symbol of the vulnerability and resilience of the human spirit and the choreographic sequences representing the struggle against and the conquest of Life's unpredictable and powerful natural forces that embodies a dance  performance that is pure poetry in motion.

Impermanence  is currently on a national tour and I encourage every person who is able to to be transported by the amazing magical sway of Bonachela and composer Bryce Dressner's cdance commentarty on our time and our humanity.                           





 Choreographer Rafael Bonachela Composer Bryce Dessner Music Features Another World by Anohni Lighting Designer Damien Cooper Stage Designer David Fleischer Costume Designer Aleisa Jelbart AUSTRALIAN STRING QUARTET Dale Barltrop Violin I Francesca Hiew Violin II Christopher Cartlidge Viola (Guest)* Michael Dahlenburg Cello *Christopher Cartlidge performs as guest violist with the ASQ for these performances. He appears courtesy of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. DANCERS Juliette Barton, Isabella Crain, Sabine Crompton-Ward, Davide Di Giovanni, Dean Elliott, Riley Fitzgerald, Jacopo Grabar, Liam Green, Luke Hayward, Telea Jensen, Dimitri Kleioris, Rhys Kosakowski, Chloe Leong, Jesse Scales, Emily Seymour, Mia Thompson, Chloe Young. Sydney Dance Company. Festival Theatre. Adelaide Festival Centre. Adelaide Festival. March 10-11 2021

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Impermanence   Photo by Pedro Greig


Conceived in Paris after the Notre Dame fire, Rafael Bonachela’s Impermanence explores the phenomenon of change. No sooner had the Sydney Dance Company gone into rehearsal than the country was consumed by the devastating Summer bushfires of 2020. That season of horror had only just passed before the world went into lockdown with the advent of Covid 19, and the Sydney Dance Company along with so many wa driven into lockdown. For Bonachela and composer Bryce Dressner the changes occurring around them became the inspiration for Sydney Dance Company’s current work, Impermanence. Emerging from the ashes of isolation, Impermanence glistens like a glittering jewel in the Sydney Dance Company repertoire.  Bonachela’s choreography is superbly complemented by Dressner’s evocative composition, played brilliantly by the august Australian String Quartet. This triumphant work elevates Sydney Dance Company to a new and exhilarating Parnassus of dance.

 Impermanence  Photo by Pedro Greig
 Bonachela’s choreography is electrifying, fuelling his dancers with the inspired emotive force of the dance. As a herald to the dance, the Australian String Orchestra acts as Muse to the changing patterns of the choreography. The lightness and grace of the ballet combine with the earthiness and impulse of the contemporary in a tapestry of exciting formations. A single dancer responds to the sound of the strings. One after another, dancers enter, twisting, turning and building to a climax with the frenetic sound of the strings conjuring a terpsichorean tempest of resistance and response caught in the vortex of change. The turmoil subsides leaving two dancers to comfort and protect each other from the incessant pressure of the shifting moods. Finally the single dancer remains, an individual in the maelstrom of change and yet somehow liberated by the forces of circumstance.

And so the cycle of change infuses the work with the shifting nature of life’s events. Bonachela’s pattern of dance from the soloist to the duet to the group to the full ensemble may appear repetitive to the non-discerning audience. This is the essence of life’s changes in Nature, in relationships, in the unexpected, in the tapestry of life’s journey. Each dancer, responding to the choreography adds their own character to the dance’s palette. It is vibrant, mesmerizing and carrying us from the agony of isolation and despair to the ecstatic elation at the victory of survival and regeneration. Through it all the Australia String Quartet transports us with the soulful sound of the cello, the urgent rush of the violin, the soothing strain of the viola and the reflective traverse of the violinist’s bow across the strings. Quartet and dancers fuse in an entrancing symphony of music and dance as Damien Cooper’s lighting design bathes the stage in the changing hues of the seasons or the fiery danger of the bushfire. Impermanence is not a mournful eulogy to loss but an affirming acknowledgement of the natural cycle of existence and humanity’s need to adapt to change.

As a final acknowledgement of the beauty and the changing nature of world, the fluidity of the dance and the rhythm of the strings merge with Anonhi’s Another World. In I need another world. Will there be peace?  I Need another world. This one’s nearly gone.” the risk of destroying the environment becomes a potent warning and a plea to consider what it is that we value, and what it is that we need to change. 

Sydney Dance Company in Impermanence
Sydney Dance Company’s Impermanence has emerged from the ashes of the pandemic to celebrate  hope for the future. The audience is transported and changed by the artistry of this uplifting celebration of life. The standing ovation is not only an acknowledgement of  Impermanence’s  transformative power but of the Sydney Dance Company’s stature as an unrivalled exponent of contemporary dance.

Impermanence opens at the Canberra Theatre on June 4 2021. Don’t miss it!