Sydney Dance Company: Louder Than Words -
Sydney Theatre, 8 October -
Watching Sydney Dance Company dance their latest double bill is like watching the most accomplished actors deliver a dense script in fast forward, and flawlessly so! It is hard to imagine the amount of work the company has done to realise two choreographies both of which demand a level of speed, memory and intricacy it would take weeks to learn, let alone perfect.
In this double bill, artistic director Rafael Bonachela’s Scattered Rhymes has been paired with a new work, Parenthesis, by acclaimed Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis. Both look at relationships but take very different approaches. Where Bonachela’s work is like a physical treatise on the words and ideas of “Il Canzoniere” by 14th-century Italian poet, Francesco Petrarch; Foniadakis’s work is a vivacious and imaginative revelation of a fast-paced land of characters and bodies interacting. Where one intrigues through an architectural fascination of how bodies can combine and touch; the other splashes, roars and whips these same bodies about as though provoking and testing the bounds of parentheses.
Scattered Rhymes is classic Bonachela but fresher and tighter. The components are all familiar: the tunics and briefs; the lines, strobes and flashes of light; the poetic score structure divided into stanzas. However, this work breathes with a life greater than the sum of its parts.
In his program notes Bonachela describes how he worked with the dancers to develop a physical language of the poetry, “almost a dance sign language”. Like all inspiration, the initial seed and the result are separate things. Bonachela abstracts, deconstructs and then reconstructs, and the romance of the poetry, though perhaps lost during the process, is refound in new ways in his staging.
For this work Bonachela uses a bifurcation of Tarik O’Regan’s choral composition of the same name and an electronic composition by regular collaborator Nick Wales and O’Regan. And where in previous works the choreography and music have sat beside each other, somewhat estranged, here they illuminate and chant together.
While the many intermittent duets speak through flesh on flesh – Janessa Dufty and Fiona Jopp opening with a burst of energy and prowess, David Mack and Charmene Yap rippling luxuriously into each other, Thomas Bradley and Petros Treklis entwining across the stage – it is Juliette Barton's solo that expresses the most intriguing message through a body dancing with itself. And although brief, it is this solo which gives the work its poignancy.
The dark windswept stage of Parenthesis evokes Shakespearian drama of the likes of the The Tempest. Long strips of black curtain billow into the space. The dancers’ bodies themselves are swept along in and through the movement, at its mercy and at the mercy of other dancers puppeteering them.
In creating this, Foniadakis worked with regular collaborators: composer Julien Tarride and fashion designer Tassos Sofroniou. It is clear that this creative team have developed a deep understanding over the years and are now so in tune, they imbue their collaborative voice with subtle irony and playfulness. Benjamin Cisterne’s lighting and set design marry remarkably well. He seems to have thoroughly understood their unique vernacular and highlighted it in the most breath-taking and surprising of ways.
The dancers have adopted Foniadakis unique movement style beautifully, fulfilling long-limbed flung extensions which ripple out beyond their fingertips and leave behind trails of energy. Of particular note in this work was Cass Mortimer Eipper. It was a pleasure to see the comic in him brought out and he balanced his performance perfectly between understatement, physicality and flare. Charmene Yap was also full and glorious in her movement and interpretation.
The piece quietens and fades into suggestion with Mortimer Eipper and Yap’s final duet. It feels a little like a TV season winding up yet tantalising at the same time. We want more of what we had, but are ourselves at the mercy of the director.
One never can imagine what is going on behind the scenes of a dance company as what we see on stage is merely a veneer on a densely layered canvas – but, however the company are working currently, they are certainly reaching levels of individual expertise and brilliance.
- Emma Sandall