Sydney Dance Company’s end-of-year New Breed program has become an essential part of the festive season for dance fans.
If young dancers are rolling around in bizarre costumes and blinding us with their juddering bodies under blood-red lights, then it must be Christmas.
The thing I love about New Breed is the close-up, full-throttle energy coming from the dancers and the way the audience feels relaxed enough to whoop and holler at the end of each piece. This is a let-your-hair-down dance experience, and we need more of those.
In its fifth year, New Breed is a showcase for new and emerging choreographers, who create their work with the razor-sharp dancers of the Sydney Dance Company. Some of the choreographers are more experienced than others. Some are dancers in the company experimenting with making work for the first time. It’s a testing ground.
First up, Melbourne choreographer Prue Lang gives us a futuristic work, Towards Innumerable Futures, with dancers in shiny unitards and perky bobbed wigs connecting with one foot, one elbow or a head before spinning off like atoms and commencing a simple marching pattern. It has some strong ideas but it only has one moment of real drama to excite the audience.
By contrast, Indigenous choreographer Katina Olsen’s work, Mother’s Cry, is electrifying throughout.
Showing the strong influence of her three years with Bangarra Dance Theatre, Olsen keeps her cast of all-female dancers close to the floor and moving sensually. Bodies seem to melt into each other, offering the audience haunting glimpses into something secret, private or sacred.
Moving in a pack with their eyes closed, the dancers appear to be animal-like, drinking at a stream, washing, swimming. Sometimes they come together like flames in a bushfire. The movement choices are mesmerising and it’s lovely to watch the dancers work to the music (composed by Cameron Bruce) instead of against it. Olsen is definitely a choreographer to watch.
SDC dancer Janessa Dufty grabs the audience by the throat with her dramatic-from-the-get-go Telopea. It might be the most conventional of the four pieces – no big surprises – but it’s also the most polished. Composer Tobias Merz sings live on stage, conjuring instant emotion, while Dufty’s cast of five dancers seem to be engaged in some kind of dangerous struggle. Perhaps a ritual or a sacrifice?
Dufty is a long-time dancer with the Sydney Dance Company and draws on her deep knowledge of Rafael Bonachela’s group work and strong solos for women. Ariella Casu shines with gorgeous line and strength. There’s plenty of action in this piece and the audience eats it up.
Finally, younger dancer Holly Doyle offers a comical work, Out, Damned Spot!, using some of the more senior company dancers. It reminds me of the humour in Cacti by Alexander Ekman with its vocalisations and sight gags. But it needs more development to really take off. The dancers wear see-through plastic with hoods tied tightly around their faces. They look like bits of plastic waste floating around in the ocean. It’s funny but tough on the dancers, who are swimming in sweat by the end of it.
New Breed is always a great night out. It’s a mixed bag of dance styles with the support of rising creatives including lighting designer Alexander Berlage. Take a chance on these newcomers. They might have dance companies of their own some day.