Saturday, June 5, 2021



Sydney Dance Company

Australian String Quartet

Choreographed by Rafael Bonachela

Composer: Bryce Dessner

Canberra Theatre, Canberra theatre centre to 5 June


Reviewed by Len Power 4 June 2021


Working on many levels, Rafael Bonachela’s “Impermanence” is a major dance experience that takes audiences on a journey through the fragility of our world, our vulnerabilities and relationships with people as well as the environment around us.  Initially inspired by the tragic events in 2019 of the Australian bush fires and the Notre Dame fire in Paris, the current Covid pandemic has added an additional resonance.

Just as new life appears in a landscape after a fire, Bonachela’s work ultimately displays optimism and the ability of the human spirit to find hope and beauty in adversity.

Contemporary composer, Bryce Dessner, has created a highly atmospheric music composition that is strong, dramatic and tightly woven into this epic dance experience.

With Dale Barltrop and Francesca Hiew on violins, Stephen King on viola and Michael Dahlenburg on cello, the excellent Australian String Quartet plays the score live onstage.


The company of dancers perform this challenging work with extraordinary skill and grace.  The work requires absolute precision and, when all the dancers are performing together, the effect is often quite breath-taking.  There are some exquisite solo dancing and beautiful pas de deux sequences amongst the swirling patterns of dance unfolding before us.

The lighting design by Damien Cooper with its strong bands of projected colour behind the dancers gives a haunting depth to the work and Aleisa Jelbart’s costume designs give the dancers a dream-like quality.

While it was good to be able to see the Australian String Quartet playing onstage, their placement on the side towards the back of the stage was not ideal.  Being aware of the musicians behind the dancers was often distracting from the choreography.


Rafael Bonachela’s “Impermanence” is a major achievement.  Together with Bryce Dessner’s music, the overall impact of this work is considerable.  Visually beautiful, haunting and thought-provoking, its message is one that we can all relate to.

Photos by Pedro Greig

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.