Sydney Dance Company: Frame of Mind -
Sydney Theatre, Monday 9 March -


Sydney Dance Company’s double bill, "Frame of Mind", has a lot going for it. At only 90 minutes in length (including one interval), it is not a long program but it does satisfy. The two works shown, William Forsythe’s Quintett and Rafael Bonachela’s Frame of Mind, balance each other nicely.


The opening work, Quintett, is a beautifully lyrical and poignant piece. Although it refers to themes of mortality, moments of humour and joy ensure that the mood never becomes too dark or depressing in what is ultimately a life-affirming work. The program notes, in particular Michelle Potter’s account of choreographer William Forsythe and the premature death of his then wife that inspired the making of Quintett, added much to my understanding of this work. Without these notes a lot of interesting details about the music, choreography, overall intention and set design could be missed.


Composer Gavin Bryars’ music adds so much to Forsythe’s choreography that it is difficult to imagine the movement being performed without it. The words are repetitive and unclear, but the feeling with which they are delivered heightens the emotional content of the work. The accompanying instrumental music gradually grow louder than the vocals, eventually overcoming them, mirroring the way light fades as Quintett draws to a close.


Sydney Theatre’s vast stage is left bare except for an old fashioned light projector and a convex mirror while Stephen Galloway’s costumes have an everyday feel to them, with short dresses in different colours and styles for the women and shirt/pants combinations for the men.


All five dancers - Chloe Leong, Jesse Scales, David Mack, Sam Young-Wright and Cass Mortimer Eipper - excelled in this work but I would like to draw attention to Leong and Wright in particular for the intense expressiveness and reach of their bodies. In both Forsythe’s and Rafael Bonachela's choreography these dancers never lost their contemporary sense of flow, even in Forsythe's stronger classical base.


The second work in the program, Bonachela’s Frame of Mind, is a complete contrast in style and mood, with a level of weighted intensity and speed, particularly in the group sections, that energised and engaged the audience on this night. Frame of Mind has a much bigger cast and involves the whole company in a series of solos, duets, trios and larger groups. In his first set design for a Rafael Bonachela work, Ralph Myers’ set design foreshortens the vast stage, pushing the dancers downstage into an enclosed interior space, a bare room with fluorescent lights, an exposed pipe down one wall and a large, seemingly grimy window through which changing light, from sunlight and artificial light to moonlight, give the impression of time passing. On the whole this set and lighting combination (lighting design by Ben Cistern) frames Bonachela’s choreography effectively.


As powerful as the collective energy of the ensemble sections are, I found the solos by David Mack and Cass Mortimer Eipper particularly gripping to watch, and a duet by Richard Cilli and Jesse Scales was also a standout.


Frame of Mind is touring around Australia. I suggest you get out and see it if it comes to a city near you. These dancers are really something.




Pictured: Chloe Leong and David Mack in Quintett.  Photo: Peter Greig.

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