From the moment we entered the Roslyn Packer Theatre the opening night for Season Two Bonachela / Obarzenek emanated understated elegance and the contemporary snapshot that is the culmination of 50 years of Sydney Dance Company.
There could not have been a more fitting celebration of 50 years than through multi-generational multi-skill level contemporary dance gathering in performance, of current Company dancers and Company alumni dancers with unrehearsed audience members - Us 50.
"Each new young dancer is instructed and influenced by older ones who inevitably depart. Similar to an aural tradition, but in movement, the way of making and performing is passed one to the other, and the accumulation of all the dancers' individual styles have helped to shape the Company's identity. Rather than examples of historical repertoire, Us 50 focuses on this daily process in the dance studio." extols Us 50 choreographer Gideon Obarzenek.
"For an institution whose most powerful legacy is ephemeral, its history is not only passed on through bodies of the dancers but is also accumulated in the memories of its audience. So, to represent this much larger and very important part of Sydney Dance Company, we are also joined by 25 new audience members every night. With no rehearsals, these brave participants are directed live, via earphones, by one of the people who instruct the dancers every day in the studio."
On a minimalist stage, contemporary dance meets live performance installation, Us 50 commenced with former artist of Sydney Dance Company Sheree de Costa at the young age of 60 centre stage. Immediately apparent is the contribution of Harriet Oxley in the rich contrasting and textured costumes of the alumni were layered in deep hues of burgundies from glittering lurex drapes to casual loose hanging t-shirts, while the current Company dancers were in lighter younger fresher tones.
The brilliance of the choreography to the music of composer Chris Clark, utilized full dance movement for the nubile professionals, then scaled to greater focus on arms, and easier mass movement for the audience community. At one time approaching the finale we saw each trained dancer paired with a mimicking lyrebird of the untrained. At another the lights shone on those returning to the stage. What transpired was greater than the individual 50 parts. A magnificent tribute. And it was eaten up by the audience. Who in themselves even from their theatre seats seem to transcend the night and by osmosis be absorbed into the performance.
The Season Two double bill started with an eight minute video capturing just some of the highlights from 1969 until now, and perfectly demonstrating the changes in direction from pointe shoes to barefeet, from female male partnering to boys lift boys and girls lift girls and girls lift boy and boys lift girls of today.
The first act portrays the statement of today, revisiting the 2010 choreography of Rafael Bonachela, uplifted by the current dancers. What a delight to see this work again in new light, capturing the last professional incantation with Bonachela as artistic director of the now globally acclaimed Sydney Dance Company.
Sydney performances of Season Two Bonachela / Obarzenek continue at Roslyn Packer Theatre in a short season just until 9 November.
Also coming up, meet the new breed of Australian dance creators in four world premieres at Carriageworks 28 November - 7 December.
Photos by Don Arnold
Sydney Dance Company Alumni 10
Sheree da Costa, Nina Veretennikova, Linda Rideway Gamblin, Kathryn Dunn, Lea Francis, Wakako Asano, Stefan Karlsson, Bill Pengelly, Bradley Chatfield, Kip Gamblin.
Sydney Dance Company Current Company Dancers
Riley Fitzgerald, Dimitri Kleioris, Victor Zarallo, Liam Green, Luke Hayward, Jacopo Grabar, Alexander Borg, Davide Di Giovanni, Juliette Barton, Chloe Leong, Chloe Young, Janessa Dufty, Holly Doyle, Jesse Scales, Emily Seymour, Mia Thompson.