Sydney Dance Company: 2 One Another
At just over an hour without an interval this is a relatively brief but impressive new work from Sydney Dance Company (SDC). Utilising all sixteen company dancers, artistic director Rafael Bonachela’s choreography successfully conveys a wide range of emotions and experiences that can occur when different individuals and groups relate to one another. The underlying concept here is human relationships in the broadest sense and the movement is accompanied by some very effective lighting and design elements which emphasise moments of warmth and humanity, preventing the sometimes fraught, combative atmosphere from dominating the entire work.
2 One Another is presented on a bare stage with an enormous digital screen taking the place of a more traditional backdrop and a broad strip of reflective material running horizontally across the edge of the stage. Screen content changes frequently during the performance. Glittering neon white stars, blinking cursor shapes falling like rain and spheres of light and shade slowly radiating outwards contrast with the static lines of a weather-beaten rock face. These simple abstracted motifs recur at various points and seem to emphasise the work’s structure, while the reflective material downstage lies mostly unseen until the end of the third section when it gradually turns red, anticipating the flood of colour to come.
A diverse musical score combining electronic acoustics with modern classical, baroque and renaissance genres gives 2 One Another a timeless quality. Some pre-existing work from various composers is incorporated into a new composition that uses the varied musical styles to reflect and magnify the different interactions and moods depicted. There are basically four sections both musically and choreographically. To summarize, the first and third sections are set to modern electronic music, incorporating recorded text and accompanied by faster, more athletic and extreme movement. A harsh atmosphere is created that is similar to that of William Forsythe’s iconic In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. In contrast the second and fourth sections use classical music from the Renaissance to the 20th century with fluid movement and a warmer, more natural light that emphasises the dancers’ smooth grace in an atmosphere glowing with hope.
The work begins with each dancer silent and motionless in shadow, animated firstly by recorded text into sequential gestures performed in unison, which then expand into more energetic travelling movement as the electronic music picks up speed. Dancers are costumed in short grey unitards for the first three sections - similar enough to establish them as a group but with enough subtle differences between each costume to highlight the dancers as individuals. For the final section there is a costume change for the entire ensemble to short red unitards, this time draped and ruched to create body and movement of their own. The final duet is truly beautiful, enhanced as it is by the inclusion of more colour than I can recall seeing in any of Bonachela’s previous works.
Choreographically Bonachela shows considerable skill - from the ensemble sections where his balanced spatial arrangement of dancers can only really be appreciated from a distance, to the seemingly endless ways dancers interact and seemingly converse with each other through movement. Now in his fourth year as artistic director of SDC the dancers appear completely comfortable and confident with his movement style, with the three who joined this year indistinguishable from the rest.
Although some dancers stood out in solos and duos I am unable to credit individuals as they were listed only as a group. With quite a list of creative artists credited in the program, however, the collaborative aspect of the work’s development is well emphasised. Aside from the obvious contributions of Rafael Bonachela and the dancers of SDC, those of Tony Assness (production/costume design/director of screen content), Benjamin Cisterne (lighting), Nick Wales (original music) and Samuel Webster (text) are explored in some detail. The program itself is free and a helpful guide to a work underpinned by themes so broad that the action is subjective to each viewer’s interpretation. This was a performance that enchanted if you could let it wash over you without trying to over analyse or imbue it with a specific narrative.
- GERALDINE HIGGINSON