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Season One: Bonachela/Nankivell/Lane

"absolutely electrifying"

Audrey review: Sydney Dance Company celebrates 50 years with a stunning survey of its present and future.

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Season One: Bonachela/ Nankivell/ Lane

Date: 29 Mar 2019

If you’re more of a theatre-goer than a dance fan, a Sydney Dance Company production always has something heart-stopping to offer.

The immersive lighting design and powerful soundtracks are often worth the price of the ticket alone.

This season is no different. In Gabrielle Nankivell’s work Neon Aether, the lighting design by Damien Cooper is extraordinary. The dancers appear to be moving underwater at first, with a wash of blue filling the cavernous Roslyn Packer stage. The lighting appears so thick and gloopy, they could be moving in the Upside Down.

Then, when Luke Smiles’ sound design kicks in, we hear the crackle of astronauts talking. We are in space.

The dancers move with such mind-bending fluidity they appear to have no joints. They are liquid. It’s a beautiful theatrical work that deserves to be seen by an international audience.

In contrast, Rafael Bonachela’s piece Cinco (“five” in Spanish) is a masterclass in classical contemporary technique, with each of the quintet of dancers pulling stunning hard shapes in relentless patterns set to Alberto Ginastera’s pounding String Quartet No 2. Op. 26.

Each appears in delicate gossamer costumes (by fashion designer Bianca Spender), lending to the impression that they are classical Greek statue coming to life, stretching their limbs out as if they’ve been set in stone for years.

Cinco is much closer to neo-classical ballet with its leaps, turns, balances, pointed toes and legs lifted high in the air. It looks like pure dance and for cognoscenti of the form, it will be a highlight.

For me and many others in the audience, Melanie Lane’s WOOF is absolutely electrifying and a snapshot of the future. First seen in the company’s New Breed season, its annual showcase of emerging talent, WOOF is back in a longer form and it is a stunner.

Borrowing images from Renaissance art and science-fiction and setting the dancers against the kind of music you would expect to hear in a Berlin nightclub in the ‘90s, WOOF brings the entire company together into a wild crowd.

The movements are outrageous, like nothing I’ve seen in dance before. Sometimes they appear to be swimming freestyle across the stage. At other times, they are a flock of birds tip-toeing in circles. Suddenly, they are humans again, perhaps riding a horse?

The soundtrack by Clark, an English electronic composer who happens to be married to Melanie Lane, is thrilling. When the dancers really let rip, it’s hard to stay seated in your chair.

Sydney Dance Company is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Its future would be very exciting were Melanie Lane and Gabriella Nankivell to take a greater role – or even lead the company – in years to come.

If you’re a theatre maker, see this show. It might make you think differently about bodies in space and pictures on stage. If you’re a theatre audience member, take a chance on dance.

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