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Sep 11, 2013


The cast of Les Illuminations | The Studio

One thing you could never accuse Sydney Dance Company’s artistic director of being reticent about is collaboration. Rafael Bonachela’s latest production features the decadent poetry of Rimbaud, the music of Benjamin Britten (played by members of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Roland Peelman), the angelic vocals of Katie Noonan and costumes by Toni Maticevski. It’s a diverse distillation that’s sewn together as finely as one of Maticevski’s bespoke garments. Even if the voice over the PA announcing commencement made the title sound like Les is the brother of Trevor Illuminations.

You could’ve been forgiven, on walking into The Studio, for thinking you’d just walked into a fashion show, rather than a dance performance, given Benjamin Cisterne’s pristine, white catwalk extending out from a small stage which Noonan and orchestra cosily inhabited. This brought the dancers, for many of us, close enough, almost, to shower us with their sweat; in itself, a bold move, as it risked an obviousness should any of the dancers falter in the slightest. Happily (and as you’d expect from a company of this calibre), none did, though we did get an even clearer sense than is usually possible of the strenuousness of certain moves, postures and poses. Visually, it was an interesting set-up because, as much as the focal point was the dance, they eye could hardly help but wander, now and then, to the musicians and Roland Peelman’s balletic baton.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Les Illuminations | The Studio, Sydney”


Mar 7, 2013


Two dancers from De Novo | Sydney Theatre

From the beginning. Afresh. Anew. Beginning again. These are translations, from the Latin, of De Novo, Rafael Bonachela’s latest vision (or collection, really) for Sydney Dance Company. It features works choreographed by Mr Barcelona (just warded one of Spain’s highest honours, The Cross Of The Order of Civil Merit), Alexander Ekman and Larissa McGowan. De Novo. “A mixed bill of premiere works.” Indeed.

First cab off the rank was Rafael’s Emergence, a typically inscrutable work, dense with jagged movement. If anything, my initial problem was finding focus, where to look, amid the busy choreography. Bonachela describes it as “a dance rendering of the very state of emergence”. I’m not sure what that means, but perhaps he’s referring to the point of emergence, at which ideas germinate, as the movement is suggestive of the point at which something new, or emergent, explodes into being.

Continue reading “REVIEW: De Novo | Sydney Theatre”

What are the chances? Two of Australia’s leading lights in the performing arts — Rafael Bonachela, artistic director of the Sydney Dance Company, and Richard Tognetti, artistic director of the Australian Chamber orchestra — discover a mutual passion in Jean-Philippe Rameau.

Who? Precisely. As Tognetti points out, Rameau’s legend and music was dead almost as soon as he. And he was a legend, albeit only in his own lifetime. In the dwindling days of the French monarchy, it was Rameau who reigned, musically at least, supreme. Indeed, he was very favoured at court. It was the heyday, too, of Voltaire, a time when Bach was still up-and-coming.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Project Rameau | Sydney Theatre”


Mar 22, 2012


2 One Another | Sydney Theatre

Dance can be an elusive thing, narratively. Which is why I tend to prefer the oblique, abstract and allusive to any pretensions to particularity.

Sydney Dance Company artistic director Rafael Bonachela seems to have taken on a similar outlook with the company’s latest work, 2 One Another, which he has choreographed. It is gestural and a guide to an emerging, still-developing ‘school’ of choreography unique to the man: Bonachela seems to be in the process of really finding himself; his way; his ‘house’ style; his trademark. I now feel, in years and generations to come, he may well be regarded in like manner to a Balanchine, or Taylor.

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Oct 24, 2011


A scene from The Land Of Yes And The Land Of No | Sydney Theatre

Apparently, when Sydney Dance Company was recruiting for a new artistic director after the departure of Graeme Murphy, the man that landed the job, Raphael Bonachela, included a video of The Land Of Yes And The Land Of No as part of his resume. I can see why he was hired.

This, I reckon, is the best of Bonachela, to date. It’s premise isn’t by any means deep: it relates to his observations, over quite some time, of signage and the way we’re governed by and respond to such. But he skims and skips lightly over the terrain of semiotics, averting any temptation to lapse into inaccessible intellectualism.

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Apr 7, 2011


Shared Frequencies | Sydney Theatre

Things have changed at the Sydney Dance Company. Many of us are, perhaps, still seeking to full embrace that change: the Murphy-Vernon era was so extended, intrinsic and defining for the company that it might take some time yet for Barcelona-born Raphael Bonachela to cement his position as artistic director in the collective consciousness of the public mind.

The ‘Australian’ sensibility has, in the sense that was, all but disappeared. But just as Australia has changed, so too has the SDC. What is Australian, after all? For mine, the first thing that springs to mind, to use an oft denigrated but still valid word, is multicultural. Like the US, or Israel, or a host of other nations, each country is, more and more, a global community; racially, culturally, religiously, artistically and otherwise, indefinable.

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