The Playhouse, Arts Centre, Melbourne
By Paul Ransom
If dance is ‘about’ anything then this is surely it. We Unfold is visceral, passionate and achingly beautiful. Driven by a dense emotional score and played out before a backdrop of subtly morphing video spacescapes, it is utterly breathtaking.
Sydney Dance Company’s recently appointed artistic director Rafael Bonachela has surely taken Australian contemporary dance to the stars with this piece. The sheer boldness and unrelenting beauty of We Unfold underscores an approach that is at once daring and primal. For all the obvious technical rigour, what really grabs you is the uncensored emotion and belief of the dancers. There is not a moment of timidity in this magical hour.
In fact it’s hard to maintain the usual critical cool with this piece. Its rawness and energy, its tenderness and incredible longing simply drown you. If Bonachela set out to explore the ways in which emotion and desire unfold within each of us then he has surely succeeded; and indeed it might be said that dance is the perfect language for such an exploration. At any rate We Unfold is hard to fault.
Of course Bonachela is more than ably assisted in this by the music of Italian composer Ezio Bosso, whose first full length symphony, Oceans, is a hypnotic, Glass like cello and orchestra drone that perfectly carries the spiritual melodrama of the dance.
Behind it all, Daniel Askill’s video art completes the ocean/space metaphor with a piece that mirrors Godfrey Reggio’s trip movie masterpiece Koyaanisqatsi. The real cleverness of this is that it doesn’t at any point detract from the dancers, whose beauty and unflinching, sweaty commitment makes you gasp.
Whilst Bonachela doesn’t exactly rewrite the choreographic rule book here that’s hardly the point. The fifteen strong cast move with such sensuous, athletic grace and expressive power that you are taken right into the heart of their ‘unfolding’. Beauty is an often humbling thing, even as it uplifts you. We Unfold hits that rarely touched nerve. It is genuinely moving and other worldly; but for all that, unmistakably human. Surely this is what they invented dance for.