Roslyn Packer Theatre
Reviewed February 17
Sydney Dance Company’s new work Impermanence finally had its premiere – almost a year later than initially scheduled – to an appreciative and enthusiastic audience at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Walsh Bay.
Choreographed by SDC’s artistic director Rafael Bonachela to an original score by Bryce Dessner, Impermanence has more relevance to the current day situation than its creators could ever have imagined when they first started working on it in 2019. It was conceived initially as a response to the destruction wrought first by the fire that damaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and then the bushfires that tore through Australia in late 2019-early 2020. Following the postponement of its planned premiere in March 2020 due to pandemic restrictions, Impermanence was extended into a longer work (it is just over an hour in length) with additional music composed for new sections. And what a deeply appropriate, emotionally resonant work it has become.
For a piece billed as a response to the traumatic and unexpected events that life throws at us, Impermanence highlights a sense of community and resilience in the choreographed interactions between the dancers onstage. This was evident from the beginning scenes in which a stumble or a fall experienced by one dancer seemed to ricochet unpredictably through the larger ensemble – affecting some but not others – to the way the dancers later grasped at and leant on each other as they were trying to recoup and rebuild. Impermanence is an ultimately uplifting work, and it ends with a sense of hope and renewal that went down a treat with the opening night audience. Bryce Dessner’s score has a lyrical and emotional depth that brings out the expressive capacities of the dancers, and it feels somehow less busy and frenetic than a lot of Bonachela’s previous works – while still making use of the dancers’ collective speed, strength and technique.
The Australian String Quartet played live onstage and stage designer David Fleischer gave us a blank minimalist wall with a crack that ran horizontally right across the stage, silently opening and closing at various points in the piece. Damien Cooper’s lighting design worked effectively with this architectural feature to flood the stage with light emanating from the oscillating chasm that at times seemed to dwarf the dancers and musicians onstage. Visually this brought to mind an iconic couple of lines from a Leonard Cohen song, Anthem. “There is a crack, a crack in everything… That’s how the light gets in”. Although I hasten to add that this is purely my own response to the work.
Aleisa Jelbart’s costume designs were individually styled for each dancer, with fitted shorts/briefs combined with loosely draped or fitted tops in a range of muted, earthy tones and soft greens. Sitting closely enough to the stage to be able to easily identify the dancers, I can tell you that Liam Green, Dean Elliott and Jesse Scales all stood out in this work. Juliette Barton and Davide di Giovanni danced the central duet with subtle assurance. Emily Seymour was notable for her lightness and speed – she becomes airborne with seemingly no effort or preparation, and it was hard to look away from Chloe Young, as the delight she felt at being back onstage was written all over her face, and not only evident in the vibrancy of her movement.
– GERALDINE HIGGINSON