Roslyn Packer Theatre Walsh Bay
Charisma, clarity of line, exactitude of movement: these are the elements and strengths that bring dancers Davide Di Giovanni and Charmene Yap to the forefront in Rafael Bonachella’s Frame of Mind.
We don’t need to guess their frame of mind. It’s evident in their bodies and interaction.
Their outstanding duet, depicting indecision, tenderness and sometimes confusion, closely follows the explosive start to Frame of Mind as the ensemble of the Sydney Dance Company bounds onto the stage to Aheym For String Quartet, described by the composer, Bryce Dessner, as “a musical evocation of the idea of flight and passage”.
Flight and passage could be an alternative title for Frame of Mind as the work refers to the passing of time, to the present and past. So, too, does Forever & Ever, the second work in the Sydney Dance Company’s double bill, although it’s connection to time is much more oblique.
Frame of Mind premiered in 2015 but in this revival the work is enhanced by the live performance of the Australian String Quartet playing three Dessner compositions, Aheym, Little Blue Something and Tenebre.
The live musicians were seated on the floor just under the stage and to one side of the stage, with dancers and musicians mirroring the other, each adding extra power to the other as the choreography swept through a wide range of emotions that constantly changed according to their frames of mind.
Ben Cisterne’s subtle lighting design mirrors the moods within Ralph Myers’s set, a large space that could be a studio or attic with peeling paint spread across the walls. The light comes and goes through a long window - a starting point and an end point for the dancers as they gaze outside.
The lighting in the second piece, Antony Hamilton’s Forever & Ever, is far from subtle. It’s in your face, almost literally, with lasers and repetitive strobe lighting.
In a Q & A article on SDC’s website Hamilton is asked “what can audiences expect from your piece?” He replied: “To be hit over the head with a large sledgehammer. I want the piece to be a bit full on. Just like an assault, sonically and visually”.
Forever & Ever opens with a solo, danced in silence by Jesse Scales. Her robotic moves and focussed eyes were mysterious and intriguing.The sledgehammer element arrived when Julian Hamilton’s score begins. As he explained in another SDC article his “sonic palette consisting of minimal techno synths will remind the audience of a party or rave”.
Upstage, a shiver of masked, black and white cloaked and hooded entities walk slowly in a diagonal line towards Scales. The black cloaked figures could be grim reapers and the white cloaked the women in The Handmaid’s Tale, minus the red. The cloaks are soon removed (one flies upwards) to reveal two men (the leader is the dancer, Izzac Caroll) in oversized white padded jackets which, in turn, are also removed as the ensemble peel off layers of clothes to move with more ease in their yellow and black tops and shorts.
Antony Hamilton describes the themes of Forever & Ever as order and chaos, duplication, modification in living systems and emphasis on his main idea to “organise the body into curious formations”. Whether of not the audience checks out the program notes or website articles, the reaction of every member of the audience will depend on their imagination and in many cases their theatre experience of watching physical dance.
Forever & Ever was a crowd pleaser on opening night and while I’ve admired previous works of the award-winning choreographer I had hoped for more inventive ideas in Forever & Ever. Dancers with lasers, costumes flying, strobe lighting, mysterious men in black, that’s been done in the past by many choreographers.
Nevertheless the past isn’t relative to the reaction and interest of new and young audiences who can, and will, admire its humour, the score and the complex moves, although I doubt its longevity within the SDC repertoire.
- VALERIE LAWSON
'Forever and Ever' continues until October 27.