Rafael Bonachela on SDC’s 2024 Season, Somos and Touring in Spain

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Rafael Bonachela. Photography Justin Ridler.
Rafael Bonachela. Photography Justin Ridler.

While Sydney Dance Company (SDC) is currently performing overseas on an International Tour Rafael Bonachela kindly took the time to answer a few questions for Dance Australia. This is a busy, but exciting period as rehearsals for the upcoming Somos continue and SDC’s 2024 season has just been announced!

Readers can find out more about SDC’s 2024 season here

Somos opens in Sydney on 1st November. Find out more and book tickets here

What are you most excited about in SDC’s upcoming 2024 season?

There is so much to be excited about for 2024!

I am thrilled to welcome the extraordinary Melanie Lane back to create a major brand-new work for the Company called Love Lock with an original score by powerhouse electronic artist Chris Clark. Love Lock asks us, what can folk dance look like in the modern world? A dance that absorbs the complex fabric of our diverse cultures, of an accelerating world and disappearing lands.

Melanie Lane created the electrifying work WOOF for Sydney Dance Company’s New Breed program at Carriageworks in 2017, which also featured a hypnotic score by Chris Clark. WOOF was presented as part of Sydney Dance Company’s 50th Anniversary mainstage season in 2019 and has since been toured nationally to much critical acclaim.

Melanie is one of the most exciting choreographers working today, and I can’t wait to discover what she has in store for Sydney Dance Company audiences in 2024.

I also can’t wait to create my new, full-length work momenta for Season One. momenta captures the essence of fleeting moments suspended between the past and future, where individual trajectories collide and intertwine. I’m thrilled to be working with my long-time collaborator and dear friend, the extraordinary Nick Wales on an original score for momenta featuring “Distant Light” by Pēteris Vasks. Once again, I’ll be collaborating with the brilliant Damien Cooper on lighting design and I’m excited to work with the extremely talented Elizabeth Gadsby for the first time on set and costume design.

SDC's Naira de Matos. Photographed for the 2024 season by Justin Ridler.

I’m also looking forward to welcoming our littlest audience members to Sydney Dance Company’s Neilson Studio in 2024 to experience Club Origami. Presented in association with youth-centred artist collective Seven Circles and produced by UK’s Little Big Dance, Club Origami is devised by Japanese dance artist and founder Takeshi Matsumoto. This beautiful interactive dance show invites children to explore the boundless possibilities of paper and imagination in origami. 

Tell us about the upcoming work Somos?

Somos represents the very first time in my career that I have returned to my Spanish roots, digging deep and exploring how my home country has helped to shape me as an artist and as a person, honouring my family and the traditions of my place of birth. Somos, meaning “we are” in Spanish, features a cascade of powerful and intimate solos, duos and trios that speak to my Spanish roots, with music by iconic Latin musicians such as Rosalía, Silvia Pérez Cruz, Buika, Arca, Chavela Vargas, Estrella Morente. Somos is possibly my most intensely personal work yet and will be performed in the round in the intimate Neilson Studio at Sydney Dance Company.

The Sydney Dance Company café space will be transformed into Bar Boca, a Spanish tapas bar which will be open for the duration of the Somos season for pre and post-show meals and drinks with live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Somos is an invitation for audiences to experience Spanish culture on multiple levels.

Rafael Bonachela's Somos. Photography PedroGreig.

Is your Spanish heritage a big part of your identity? Or are you more of a global citizen now?

Yes, my Spanish heritage is definitely still a big part of who I am, but Sydney is home for me now - I am an Australian citizen, I have an Australian partner and friends who are like family. 

Of course, in saying that, I miss my family back in Spain very much and the European way of life. An important aspect of my role is being able to tour the Company on a regular basis and share Australian choreography with the world. This means that luckily, Europe and my Spanish family never feel too far away. 

Is physically being in Spain for the final part of the works development important?

That’s an interesting question. The initial creation process of Somos actually began in Sydney, but as we left for our European tour before it was 100% completed, I have been working on Somos with the ensemble a lot while actually being on the ground in Spain. This was not planned, but in a way, it has actually been perfect because the dancers and I have been living, breathing and creating a work influenced by my heritage right here on Spanish soil. It has actually made the experience even more poignant and special for me on a personal level.

SDC Dancers in Bonachela's Somos. Photography PedroGreig.

Would you like to share anything about your experience of the international tour/SDCs reception so far?

This international tour has been an extremely special one for me and the Company. We have received such an incredible reception in Europe, with thunderous applause and standing ovations at every performance. Madrid was extraordinary and I really felt embraced by Spanish audiences. We had very special guests in the audience, from the Australian Ambassador to the great Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar who attended twice! This really blew me away as I’ve been a massive fan of his work for a long time. Even more special, was my own family being in the audience. It was an unforgettable homecoming.

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