Friday, May 3, 2019

Bonachela/Nankivell/Lane - Sydney Dance Company

WOOF choreographed by Melanie Lane (photo Pedro Greig)

Review by John Lombard

In ‘Bonachela/Nankivell/Lane’ the Sydney Dance Company celebrates 50 years of performances with a reminiscence of things to come.  Returning choreographers Gabrielle Nankivell and Melanie Lane draw on the future nostalgia of classic science fiction for inspiration, while Rafael Bonachela reveals the endless fractal possibilities yet to be discovered in modern dance.

Neon Aether by Gabrielle Nankivell reminds us that reaching into unknown space is a wonderous voyage, but demands courage.  The orbit-like spinning of the dancers captured the explosive energy demanded to escape gravity and pass into the ether.  This was made explicit in intervals of darkness where the recording of a space shuttle launch rumbled the theatre.

Rainbow boiler suit costumes by Harriet Oxley created a Flash Gordon space age.  The different colours made the dancers a miniature solar system, with the soloist finishing the piece a red-clad blazing Mercury.  The pounding but foreboding synth of composer Luke Smiles evoked the peril of space exploration.

This was followed by Cinco, a piece by Company artistic director Rafael Bonachela.  This dance was built around Alberto Ginastera’s String Quartet No. 2 Op. 26, with five dancers, the five phases of the music, and a pentagon motif all punning on the fifty year anniversary of the Company.

This shrouded and intimate work had the intricacy of a Spirograph, and a frenzied energy tuned to Ginastera’s wailing strings.

Following this was Melanie Lane’s WOOF, here for an encore after a triumphant run in the New Breed program in 2017.

Where Nankivell’s piece explored the world beyond earth, this was a grimy working future.  The dancers here were a whimsical mob, regimented but with a playfulness that suggested the contrast between machine society and the indestructible human spirit.

The dancers had their hands painted black, so that when they touched they smeared each other’s bodies with dark blotches.  Practical workaday costumes by Aleisa Jelbart and a forge hammer soundtrack by composer Clark completed the sense that this was a rave in a coal mine.

Each of the three works in ‘Bonachela/Nankivell/Lane’ stands on its own as expressive and fascinating dance.  Together, they celebrate the past accomplishments of the Sydney Dance Company while pointing forward to work still undone.