Sydney Dance Company: "De Novo" -
Sydney Theatre, 1 March -
"De Novo" is the most exciting program of work presented by Sydney Dance Company (SDC) since Rafael Bonachela took the helm. The triple bill opens with Bonachela’s own Emergence, as usual textbook choreography well performed and complemented by elegantly minimalist design elements. However, Nick Wales and Sarah Blasko’s brilliantly dark, driving experimental pop music gives the piece an unexpected edginess, turning the opening trio of two men and a woman (the always incredibly fluid Charmene Yap) from simply beautiful to downright sexy.
Emergence lulls from there, the hideously clichéd half-blazers worn by the dancers hard to get past. The game-changer is a riveting solo, performed by the dynamic Natalie Allen, who powerfully embodied the haunting vocals and sinister electronica. The remaining duet and group sections continue this energy level, bringing a fresh drive and darkness to the stage. Despite a lack of choreographic innovation, a satisfying element of risk makes Emergence dramatic, edgy and compelling, by far Bonachela’s best work for SDC to date.
Fanatic by Larissa McGowan lifts the mood with its humorous portrayal of the online passions expressed about the “Alien” and “Predator” franchises. Vocals sampled from the films and fan videos are transposed onto the dancers’ bodies, the standout a male (Thomas Bradley, demonstrating surprising acting prowess) hilariously portraying a fan devastated by the lack of quality in the latest “Alien vs. Predator” movie.
A ‘fight’ scene was disappointing, requiring a skill in floorwork that wasn’t quite realised by the dancers, while the cavernous space swallowed the three performers. Nevertheless, the accumulation of recontextualised dialogue combined with the dancers’ constantly morphing bodies creates an amusing commentary on die-hard pop-culture fandom.
Alexander Ekman’s Cacti is the best work of the evening. Unbelievably fast-paced, rhythmic choreography with cartoon-like elements of slapstick gives way to sarcastic voiceovers attempting to delve deeper into the symbols of ‘capitalist repression’ and ‘simultaneous freedom and imprisonment’ present in the piece. It had me laughing until tears ran down my face.
A duet between a male and female (Bernhard Knauer and Alana Sargent) set to their recorded ‘thoughts’ is nothing short of brilliant, but overall it was Cacti’s sheer absurdity that won me over. Just as I was questioning the title, the dancers disappeared and reappeared each holding an enormous cactus, to much laughter.
Lighthearted yet choreographically brilliant, Cacti is a perfect ending to an entertaining evening.
- EMILINE FORSTER
De Novo runs until 23 March.