Tim Macavoy enjoys some dance from down-under.
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall
Choreography: Rafael Bonachela with the dancers of the company
Music: Ezio Bosso
Video art: Tim Richardson
Sydney Dance Company have left their native home for a world tour, including a three night residency at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. But this is not a purely Antipodean affair, as their artistic director is Rafael Bonachela: born in Barcelona, Rafael made his name with London’s renowned Rambert Dance Company for 14 years, and even did a stint as Kylie Minogue’s choreographer on her Fever tour. The composer, Ezio Bosso, is also based in London and puts his experience as Artistic Director of The London Strings to good use with a score heavy on cellos, underpinned with violin and piano.
The dancers are muscular (and nice to look at, of course), with Bonachela’s complex choreography allowing them to put weight and momentum, rather than grace, onto the stage. There is quite a spread of talent and style at work, which makes for exciting solos and duets, but exposes too many differences in the ensemble numbers, which could be seen as a weakness, impressively energetic as they are.
The first piece, 6 Breaths, is layered with musical nuance, the cellos representing the lungs at work while the dancers put their real lungs through their paces with swirling and convulsing movements. Metaphorical interpretations are explored - such as First breath, In the same breath, Under one’s breath. It’s not the most original source of physical imagery, but it did produce two stand out moments: a woman twitches her limbs in time with the piano, as though her body were the keys being struck by the pianist; and two men seem to defy gravity as they alternately caress and reject each other in a tender, yet distinctly masculine exchange. Tim Richardson’s video art was also stunning - beginning with swirling snow which formed the sculpture of a couple embracing.
LANDforms is more epic in scale, it deals with the way weather shapes the landscape and runs at around an hour. While the dancers had truly warmed up by that point, and seemed to flow more easily around the space, the lack of any real change of style meant that it wasn’t as engaging as it should be. The lighting was still fairly dim (some might say dull), and the costumes were almost the same as the first half - except in a pleasingly translucent hue. However, the play between Bosso’s music and Bonachela’s choreography was like watching leaves on the wind. The dancers kept pace well with the ever changing mood, rising with athletic dexterity and falling to the ground in submission. There were some particularly impressive men (not to be rude about the women - but hey - it’s what attracted my attention) and so it was great to see that so many of the intermittent duets broke with the tradition of opposite sex couples and allowed great partnerships to have their moment. And for the finale: who doesn’t love a downpour of rain on stage to soak those poor semi-naked dancers?
It’s not the most innovative set you’ll ever see, but makes for a highly enjoyable, beautiful and relaxing evening.
VERDICT: *** (Three Stars) Flashes of brilliance jump out of an entertaining evening of contemporary dance.
BOOKING LINK: http://ticketing.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/dance-performance/tickets/sydney-dance-company-60714 <http://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/>