Freelance writer – creative – media-maker
Sydney Dance Company’s We Unfold references many different themes: the ebb and flow of life, the nostalgia of leaving one’s home for a new land and the waves of the ocean. In reality, however, this work is about whatever you want it to be; imaginative and expansive, We Unfold defies description in the best sense.
Set to composer Ezio Bosso’s lyrically expressive Symphony No.1, Oceans, We Unfold possesses a point of difference in a field in which sound engineering and experimentation are the norm. Rafael Bonachela’s choreography also draws far more explicitly on classical dance vocabulary than that of his peers. Nonetheless, the spirit with which Bonachela infuses the work and his attention to detail make We Unfold recognisably contemporary.
Bonachela’s engagement with the music is masterful; the solo strains of a cello are reflected in the smooth, undulating motions of a single dancer. As the musical texture is fleshed out, so is the dancing onstage. Mirroring the melodic lines of a symphony, the dancers perform in arrangements in the foreground, background and centre of the stage whilst remaining part of a larger choreographic picture. If somewhere there are dancers being lifted towards the sky, others are motioning and bending towards the floor. If a dancer is reaching for the theatre wings, another is pulling back towards the centre of the stage. The timing is not enslaved by the music but often naturalistic, transforming the audience’s sense of time. A single sustained note in Bosso’s score is often matched by a tapestry of beautiful movements.
The dancers command the audience’s attention by channeling different levels of intensity into the rippling wave-like gestures and lifts that infuse the five dance sections (corresponding to the five movements of Bosso’s symphony). Daniel Askill’s simple-but-striking video art illuminates the different moods of these scenes whilst Jordan Askill’s minimalist, flesh-coloured costume designs show off the dancer’s bodies magnificently and allow the dancers maximum freedom of movement. Bonachela’s use of different partnering combinations is commendable; male dancers lift and manipulate the bodies of their female partners, but female dancers also lift and guide their male partners; male dancers also dance together at times, as do the female dancers.
The most heart-breaking moment of the opening night performance occurred near the beginning of the work. After a brilliant opening section, the music and video art suddenly froze, resulting in an apology and a curtain close. Ten minutes later, the dancing recommenced from the point at which it had stopped. Needless to say, some of the magic was lost. Indeed this had happened at least once before at last year’s Australian Dance Awards, also held at the Arts Centre. This is a serious problem that the Sydney Dance Company needs to resolve if they want to safely restage this work for Melbourne audiences in the future. Ultimately, it was the sheer brilliance of the work that saved the evening.
Technical difficulties notwithstanding, this work is an outstanding contribution to dance. Achingly beautiful and memorable, We Unfold is as close as one gets to poetry in motion.
We Unfold is showing at Melbourne’s Arts Centre November 9th – 13th
We Unfold is showing at Brisbane’s QPAC November 18th – 27th
For more information on We Unfold, visit: http://www.sydneydancecompany.com/
Related article: Read Grace Edwards’ interview with Rafael Bonachela here.
First published in Trespass Magazine