• The ensemble in Omer Backley Astrachan's 'Fugue'. Photo: Daniel Boud.
    The ensemble in Omer Backley Astrachan's 'Fugue'. Photo: Daniel Boud.
  • 'Human Drama', choreographed by Jessica Goodfellow. Photo: Daniel Boud.
    'Human Drama', choreographed by Jessica Goodfellow. Photo: Daniel Boud.
  • Holly Doyle's 'Processional'. Photo: Daniel Boud.
    Holly Doyle's 'Processional'. Photo: Daniel Boud.
  • The ensemble in an excerpt from Bonacella's 'Ab Intra'. Photo: Daniel Boud.
    The ensemble in an excerpt from Bonacella's 'Ab Intra'. Photo: Daniel Boud.

Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year
Bay 20, Carriageworks
December 7

Despite the challenges of 2020, Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year students delivered a sterling graduation performance at Carriageworks. And when you consider that they spent the end of Term 1 and all of Term 2 working from home alongside classes on Zoom, the end result of this one-year course is even more impressive. This year’s graduates range from 18 to 22 years of age, but danced with an authenticity and passion for dance that travelled across the footlights into the audience with ease.

The program began with three new works choreographed by SDC and PPY associates/alumni, all with lighting by Alexander Berlage and costumes by Annie Robinson.

Former SDC dancer Holly Doyle’s Processional utilised all 24 graduates in a tightly choreographed, well-structured and well-rehearsed piece of choreography. The first solo after the initial ensemble section, danced by a wigless Sabine Crompton-Ward, was mesmerising. Berlage’s lighting design meant that dancers’ feet clad in black socks seemingly disappeared against the black floor, while legs clad in sheer black stockings rose up and out of an imagined black mist around floor level.

In Robinson’s costume designs (with Holly Doyle), the riotous colour of brightly coloured fabric wigs gave an oddly comical look to most of the dancers but also gave more interest and vibrancy to what would have otherwise been a colourless work. It sometimes felt as if this work needed a larger stage and more distance between dancers and audience for the shapes and lines of smaller groups within the ensemble to be fully recognised. Processional was danced to a dynamic new score composed by May Lyon from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Composing Women program which was partly pre-recorded. Two out of five musicians played live alongside the dancers on the night.

Omer Backley-Astrachan’s Fugue is a 20-minute work for 12 dancers. Also set to new music from a composer associated with the Conservatorium’s Composing Women program – Jane Sheldon – this work features a defined "edge" by way of a simple rectangle on the floor marked out with white tape. Sometimes the dancers are outside looking in, while others enter and dance. But they ended the work lying across the boundary, neither inside nor out. Backley-Astrachan is Course Co-ordinator of the PPY and there were some interesting duo and trio segments in Fugue.

Jessica Goodfellow’s work Human Drama was the shortest work of the program but also highly theatrical and probably the most memorable. The work takes its name from the song Human Drama by Planningtorock (otherwise known as electronic musician and producer Jam Rostron). It begins with a lone man in a suit (Hugo Poulet) traversing as the stage as he becomes increasingly agitated, culminating in a screaming meltdown. Surrounded by six dancers in metallic unitards who seemingly taunt and torment him, he is eventually revealed to be wearing the same distinctive costume underneath his suit and, newly re-united, they dance a triumphant finale infused with disco and jazz moves. Goodfellow graduated from PPY in 2015, and after a stint with IT Dansa Company in Barcelona is currently freelancing while undertaking a university degree. I hope to see more of her work in the future.

Finally, the dancers tackled three sections of Rafael Bonachela’s iconic work 6 Breaths. It was well-staged by Rehearsal Associate Charmene Yap who also had to re-imagine the partnering sections and duets in order to meet the social distancing requirements. Seeing this excerpt made me want to see the entire work again. The fast-moving ensemble sections make staying in unison challenging, but at an individual level the dancers captured the liquidity of Bonachela’s choreography with confidence and ease.


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