Friday, August 31, 2018


Sydney Dance Company in ab [intra] Photo by Vishal Pandey

ab [intra].

Choreography by Rafael Bonachela with the dancers of Sydney Dance Company. Rehearsal director Chris Aubrey. Original music. Nick Wales. Additional music. Peteris Vasks. Lighting design. Damien Cooper. Production and costume design. David Fleischer. Sydney Dance Company. Canberra Theatre. Canberra Theatre Centre. August 28–30 2018. Bookings: or 62752700..

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

While watching the opening sequence of Sydney Dance Company’s full length work ab [intra], I was reminded of an acting exercise. Actors are given a series of commands, for example: Run, walk, stop, go, sit etcetera. They are to do any of these at any time without thinking, and resume or change on impulse. The aim is to clear the head and be in the moment. Sydney Dance Company Artistic Director. Rafael Bonachela has begun his latest work from a similar perspective. “I asked the dancers to be in the moment with each other, to feel and listen – to use their instincts and their impulses and then seek to capture those moments in writing.”

The result is spontaneous, impulsive energy fired by a creativity that sets the stage alight with extraordinary expressions of emotion and interaction emerging from the inner being and exploding into the choreography of action and reaction, fluidity and stillness, interaction and separation. An audience sits transfixed, mesmerised by the moment and the sheer dynamism of movement and sculptural grace that is the orchestrated pattern of the dance, a poetic symphony of body and soul. Mind and body, emotion and intellect are fused in the dancer’s extraordinary synergy of muscle and limb. Anguish and love, closeness and alienation, dependence and rejection counterbalance in a virtuoso display of corporeal muscularity of movement. 
Davide di Giovanni and Charmene Yapp in ab [intra]
Photo: Vishal Pandey
The sheer physical dynamism of Bonachela’s company is astounding. Every moment astonishes. Bodies intertwine, flowing through negative space with the grace of a ballet dancer or the electrifying impulses of the shock to awaken the senses. The internal rhythms find expression in the pas de deuxs before emerging in the explosive similitude of the ensemble scenes to the syncopated sound of Nick Wales’s original compositions in conytrast to the classical beauty of Peteris Vask’s entrancing cello composition. Damien Cooper lights the introspective moments with soft lighting before blasting the open stage with a white wash. Music. lighting and dance depict the inner and outer nature of the human condition.
Nelson Earl and ab [intra]  Photo: Vishal Pandey
I sit amazed by the dancers’  versatility and the imaginative force of  choreography that transcends expectation. Whether a solo by a possessed Nelson Earl or a pas de deux by Davide di Giovanni and Charmene Yapp or a full company routine, danced as a round or in unison, one is compelled to watch in wonder at a collaboration that is entirely unique, visceral and totally immersive.

Without a sustaining narrative, experiencing ab [intra] is like gazing with the untrained eye upon an abstract work of art. Bonchela, rehearsal director Chris Aubrey and the dancers  invite an audience to look within themselves and, informed by the excitement, skill and art of the Sydney Dance Company discover the rich canvas of their lives.
“You blew me away” Bonchela told his dancers after the show. He was not the only one.