Sydney Theatre, Sydney
October 13, 2014
By Elizabeth Ashley of Dance Informa.
From their first moments on stage, there emanates from these young dancers a striking and palpable energy. It pervades the theatre, engages the audience and we embrace it with great gusto.
The performance of Sydney Dance Company’s inaugural Pre-Professional Year (PPY) demonstrates not only the SDC’s commitment to train young dancers, it also embodies and continues the strategy that Rafael Bonachela initiated when first taking the reins of the SDC. He continually seeks to deepen and broaden the experience of the company, looking towards an ever-evolving future rather than relying on past achievements.
Since 2007, Bonachela has collaborated with international choreographers and composers, using his European connections to expose his dancers to a diversity of styles as well as showing the world what the SDC has to offer.
The PPY programme is comprised of five works, each different and demanding in its own way, showcasing the ability and future potential of these 23 young dancers from Australia and New Zealand. The audience is full of dance devotees, family and friends, which heightens the excitement and joy of the evening.
There are no sets, the costumes are simple and effective, and the structure of the programme, which includes video footage, never loses our attention. With variations in tempo, we move from the grounded Once we Were to the “sensuous richness and emotional exuberance” of Bonachela’s Project Rameau, touching on some light-hearted comedy along the way.
Once we were by choreographer Lucas Jervies sets the joyful and uplifting mood that prevails throughout the evening, introducing the full company in concert with the bubbly Mozart Violin Concerto No.1. We see a mass of bodies, a giant, ambulating organism writhing, intertwining – the whole constantly shifting across the stage. And then we see a sense of individual exploration and development as dancers intermittently explode and create their own forms without being far from the collective mass.
In Jervies’ words, “What an exciting time for these dancers as they leave behind their adolescent selves and embark on futures full of possibilities to create beautiful memories.”
Craig Barry’s It’s a Duet is a collaborative work between the choreographer and the PPY2014 dancers, within which we find the duet quickly morphing into a group work. The duets by Mangraviti and Lopez, as well as Moran and Russel, are exacting and engaging, requiring a strong connection both with each other and the floor.
The bittersweet inclusion of To My Suite adds a lovely touch to the programme in recognition of the short but resounding choreographic career of Tanja Liedtke. Liedtke was appointed director of SDC in 2007, but did not have the opportunity to take up the position with her life coming to an unexpected and tragic end. Bittersweet also in it’s humour and insight into life’s comic banality, a couple battles for the popcorn across, around, up and over a sofa played out through Liedtke’s quirky, yet rigorous, movements.
It seemed entirely fitting to conclude the program with Project Rameau by the director himself. Originally a collaboration with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, it displays a refined balance of elegance and sinuosity, allowing the dancers to display their virtuosity and poise. The young male dancers are impressive as they incarnate Nureyev’s motto: “Above all, you must be noble.”
With the lightness and joy of Mozart, the lyricism of Rameau and Vivaldi, and the nobility of Bach with some contemporary pieces added to the mix, the music creates a very satisfying totality which is perfect for highlighting the technical capacity of these dancers as well as displaying their mature sensitivity. The whole evening combines perfectly to create an ambiance of joy and belief in the future.
This technical and disciplined performance by these debutants and the overall success of PPY2014 Revealed belongs not only to the dancers but to everyone involved with the PPY and the programme presented. (Of particular note, Anne Dunn as executive director and Linda Gamblin as PPY course director with her team of teachers.)
The future rests assured for SDC (and the contemporary dance scene in general) as Rafael Bonachela continues to put in place initiatives to deepen and develop the company. It was an absolute delight to be surrounded by such joyful energy and youthful passion for dance and the future. The enraptured audience rose to their feet as the final curtain fell.
Photo (top): PPY2014 Revealed Students. Photo courtesy of Sydney Dance Company.