Sunday, April 12, 2009
SYDNEY DANCE COMPANY present 2009 Season, Rafael Bonachela's 'we unfold' at the Sydney Theatre.
'we unfold', a world premiere. Concept and Direction by Rafael Bonachela. Choreography by Rafael Bonachela in collaboration with dancers. Composer: Ezio Bosso. Video art: Daniel Askill. Costume design: Jordan Askill. Lighting : Hugh Taranto. Sound design: George Gorga.
The score for this dance was composed by Ezio Bosso and was the inspiration for Rafael Bonachela who confesses to "a great affinity with him as an artist." Talking with the composer parallels between the thoughts of the composer and events in his own life resonated. "Fear of the unknown and leaving one's origins were poignant to me.... We also discussed themes of lamentation, being at one with nature, life and madness, having nothing to lose and the power of the heart amongst other ideas." Then, as he began work with the dancers "I wanted to create a piece about our needs and desires to slowly unfold, revealing ourselves to those around us.... 'we unfold'", writes Mr Bonachela, "is a collective discovery, a self-examination of our emotional cores."
The music is certainly an emotional journey. In five movements, the sounds are mostly relentlessly pounding expressions of trauma. There is little contrast and the accumulative experience, for me, was one of great perturbation: mental disquiet or agitation. Little opportunity for rest or contemplation in its explication. The music drives on and on to climaxes of percussive explosions. Relentless cacophony. The dance is reflective of that energy. Of that emotional core.
A great deal of the work was bound to the earth. Gravitational pull. The bodies of the dancers mostly hugged and crawled at floor level in explosive twitches and contortions across the space. The limbs of the dancers twisted in marvellous contortions and at great speed and effort. It is a really great relief when the upper torsos of the dancers come into more focused development and a reason for relieved joy when lifts and exploration of upper space begins to take place. When more than two dancers were on stage the visual images were often a diffusing and non pleasing picture. When all fourteen were together it was not easy to enjoy or appreciate.
The Lighting design is also very present. Patches of oblong, squares, circles dominate the floor surface and guide and distract us from the activities of the dancers, rising and falling in intensities, almost, seemingly, choreographed in opposition, sometimes, to the bodies. In a central section the dancers line up in a passage of light and on the edges of it, sometimes are lit, sometimes not, sometimes only half lit. A post modernist design that challenges us to see or not to see the dance. Catch what of it that you can: see the beginning of a gesture but not its execution or catch the end of it but not its start or journey. Too much of the "trick" draws attention to the conceit, and either you go with it or find it irritating. (I found it irritating, and on saying so, a friend accused me of being a "grandad", of which, of course, I could be accused. But this annoying post modernism might now be also post and passe. So hackneyed that is.....!!!!)
Supporting the lighting is a huge full back wall set of Video art images. Images of stars (that is, the Star Wars images before Luke Skywalker kicks it into hyper-speed) come moving at you. An eclipsed sun comes slowly towards you and in musical synchronisation explodes to pieces. Much later a burning sun also travels to us and away again. A giant image of one of the dancers is projected onto the wall and seemingly looks. (I couldn't decide if I should plump for the experience of memory of the images of The Colossus of Rhodes from my ancient history books or for a beige version of the genie from my movie going childhood of THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD. The image of the female dancer similarly conjured Sci-fi movies of the past.) Later the stars double in a vertical shift to appear as bubbles of water, the body catches fire as well, and only brings into sharp relief the relative primitive design execution, as memories of the recently seen Bill Viola video installations (THE TRISTAN PROJECT) come back to one. The video design, like the lighting, does not often co-ordinate with the dance and just where one's focus should be becomes a post-modernist dilemma for this "grandad". It competed for attention away from the dancers hugely.
The most successful part of the program are the costumes. Three sets of beige costume which allow the dancers the freedom to move and that enhance the choreography.
The Company of dancers are breathtakingly daring and accomplished in their tasks. The power and the speed is admirable. The featured work of Juliettte Barton, Richard Cilli, Amy Hollingsworth and Paul Zivkovitch was terrific. Both Chylie Cooper and Bradley Chatfield also caught my attention.
The whole affect of 'we unfold' is one of relentless barrage. There is little contrast and as a result it appears to be repetitious and dulls the anticipation and the senses. It was a very long hour of movement and a relief of stillness and silence when it finished.
This is the first work of this newly composed company. 360 degrees, from most of this team last year, promised something new and special, this work treads water in its development and is relatively a disappointment to a fan of the company.