• Nelson Earl. Photo: Pedro Greig.
    Nelson Earl. Photo: Pedro Greig.

Roslyn Packer Theatre, 15 May 2018

ab [intra] is artistic director Rafael Bonachela’s first full-length work for Sydney Dance Company (SDC) in six years, and, based on the reaction of the opening night audience it was definitely worth waiting for. At 70 minutes in length (with no interval), ab [intra] demonstrates the extraordinary athleticism and physical prowess of SDC’s dancers; but adds an extra dimension of poetry in the way it showcases the lyrical and dramatic potential of selected dancers in quieter moments.

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A duet of intimacy and belonging: Janessa Dufty and Izzac Carroll. Photo: Pedro Greig.

Early in the work, long-time company dancer Janessa Dufty and relative newcomer Izzac Carroll took the breath away in a duet of intimacy and belonging. They remained physically connected through an ingeniously choreographed series of movements which allowed both dancers to shine. Later on, Charmene Yap and Davide di Giovanni performed a more dynamic duo with a harder edge, reverting, in its final moments, to the same sort of tenderness which characterised the earlier duet.

In the second half of the work, Nelson Earl took on a soloist role, being the first to step away from a static line-up of dancers along the back of the stage, towards the audience, and into his own movements. Earl has a cat-like grace, and a sinuous quality to his movement that is guided by an energy that is difficult to anticipate. There is no apparent preparation for or sign that a strong dynamic movement is about to come in the immediate lead up to it, and this makes him an excitingly impetuous performer to watch.

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Dynamic: Charmene Yap and Davide Di Giovanni. Photo: Pedro Greig.

Chloe Leong is one of the company’s more delicately lyrical and dramatic dancers – she was given the chance to display these qualities in the first half of ab [intra] and was an absolute pleasure to watch. Relative newcomer Ariella Casu provided an interesting counterpoint to Leong’s movements in the dramatic intensity and force of her dancing. With both dancers a similar height, Leong in a long sleeved white leotard and Casu in a sleeveless high-neck black number, the interactions between these two seemed to be a clash of opposites, from one binary extreme to another.

Meaning ‘from within’ in Latin, ab [intra] is well served by the combination of minimal lighting/set design and Nick Wales’s lush and emotive score. The music combines strings (including a string concerto by composer Peris Vasks) into a broader electronic soundscape, sounding both modern and timeless at different stages. Meanwhile set and costume designer David Fleischer has utilised an exposed industrial aesthetic for the set and a range of costumes in neutral shades of beige, white and black that include streamlined dancewear like leotards and tights, alongside looser fitting modern clothing. The men are often bare chested and the women in skin coloured crop tops that give the aesthetic impression of nudity.

This is a powerful and moving work – see it if you can.


ab [intra] plays Sydney 14 – 26 May and Melbourne 30 May – 2 June before heading on a national tour 15 June – 1 September.

Top: Nelson Earl is an excitingly impetuous performer. Photo: Pedro Greig.

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