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ab [intra]

Sydney Dance Company presents, ab [intra], at the Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay. 14-26 May.

ab [intra] – latin for from within – is the first full length work that Choreographer and Artistic Director, of the Sydney Dance Company, Rafael Bonachela, has made for six years. Says Mr Bonachela in his program notes:

The creative process began as a series of improvisations where 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. Those written phrases became the direction for a physical movement sequence, a script for dance, an energy transfer from the thought to the body.

In the intimate collaboration with his 15 dancers a vocabulary of movement has evolved.

Mr Bonachela, with his other collaborators, his familiar musical muse, Nick Wales, has created/composed a striking sound score/scape that features the percussive exploration of the cello ‘with textual pulsations and lamentations’ and added electronica, that builds, ultimately, into the Peteris Vasks Concerto No. 2 for cello and string orchestra, in the central movement of this work, using the Movement 1. Cadenza – Andante Cantibile, and later, Movement II. Allegro Moderato. In all, six movements – episodes – of music by Mr Wales: Birth, Activation, Cadenza, Ecstatic Gestures, Allegro Moderato and Within, are what propels the physical action of the dancers and immerses the audience into an aural journey of 70 minutes that has the effect of a visceral consciousness that envelopes the audience into the experience of ‘dancing’ with the performers and endowing emotionalities that can become an ecstatic endurance – we share, intimately, the ab [intra] meditation, contemplation of these artists and become one with the energy of it all.

The energy thrusts/hangs in the vast empty space of the Set Design choices of David Fleischer: an exposure of the scale of the Roslyn Packer bare stage, its breadth, depth and height – the back black wall, the open wing spaces surrounding a vast white dance floor with, above, a shutter-like roof (venetian blind?) that opens, closes and contracts, lit in a still Lighting plot, by Damien Cooper, to create a calm, simple visual of dim wattage enshrouded with the fug of a dense ‘smoke haze’ that atmospherically spirals in movement in response to the atmospheric conditions of the theatre, and the dynamic movements of the dancers, they, dressed in simple choice of flesh-coloured leotards or ‘athletic’ street clothes (also, by David Fleischer) to reveal the movement unimpeded by extraneous flutters of fabric.

The Sydney Dance Company is breathtakingly ‘fit’, the energy from all exhilarating, exhausting. In full company moments, to the breaking down to trios, and duets, to solo, the discipline of the work’s ‘vision’, its ‘philosophy’, is exposed to us in a set of seductive, entrancing opportunities to guide us to endow meaning and logic to the offers. Its ‘meaning’, its intention is, of course, supremely subjective, each of us will ‘own’ the work uniquely, for Mr Bonachela and his collaborators are asking for us to appreciate this experience as more than just movement, more than just bodies in space, and there is, however, no ‘spelling out’, no definitive guidance to statement.

Shrouded in light and haze, propelled by the contemporary sounds of Nick Wales, the work can reflect the modern retreat to concern for the emotional dynamics of a planet in decline, or … ? What have you thought?

The company in movement is grounded in Modern Dance gestures, of sculptural, earthed, gravity trapped bodies, with only occasional flights into the air – balletic traditions are rare. An early highlight, is the extended duet by Izaac Carroll and Charmene Yap, dressed in flesh colours: the intimate eruptions of these two entwined figures, on the floor, triggering an imagery of a biblical mash of clay, ‘dancing’ the creation of man and woman (Adam and Eve – my fancy!)  Much later, one is arrested by the duet between Davide de Giovanni and Janessa Dufty, and the solos of Nelson Earl.

What it all adds up to is not certain and can be the provocation for discourse – like any work of art should be. ab [intra], an offer of the 21st Century, in the early part of the 21st Century, that is a puzzle of beauty for you to make concrete – if you need to.