Australian Dance Reviews

Sydney Dance Company in ‘Momenta’: Transcending physical limitations

Sydney Dance Company in 'Momenta'. Photo by Pedro Greig.
Sydney Dance Company in 'Momenta'. Photo by Pedro Greig.

Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney.
28 May 2024.

In Momenta, Sydney Dance Company strips back to reveal the physics of human connection through time. The original score by Nick Wales features “Distant Light” by Pēteris Vasks. Choreographed by Rafael Bonachela and performed by a company of 17 dancers, the production captivates, earning a record-long standing ovation at the Roslyn Packer Theatre on Tuesday, 28 May for opening night.

This extraordinary work bypasses logic, connecting with the subconscious through beautiful intensity and visual poetry. In collaboration with Set and Costume Designer Elizabeth Gadsby, Associate Designer Emma White, and Lighting Designer Damien Cooper, Momenta propels the audience into a landscape rich with contrasting layers, motifs, and textures that reflect our human essence and connections through time.

Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela notes, “Momenta is a testament to the ephemeral yet profound connections that weave through our lives. From the most tender exchanges to an intense physical storm, the dancers traverse the beauty and complexity of the human experience. It’s a deeply personal exploration, as we invite audiences to join us on a journey that speaks to the very essence of what it means to be alive, where pure movement becomes a language of connection and expression.”

Bonachela’s ability to ground the audience and performers is evident in his collaboration-driven works. His choreographic style, marked by physical athleticism and classical lines that morph and intertwine, creates a dynamic flow. The dancers’ muscular control and agility shine through rhythmic patterning, explorative partnering, and motifs incorporating wavelets, extensions, and elevations, which then give in to gravity.

Standout moments include a poetic duet between Piran Scott and Naiara de Matos, driven by the soft classical textures of Wales’ composition. This piece reflects classical lines fused into supple contemporary motion, paying tribute to the strength, softness, and vulnerabilities found within connections. The duet between Scott and Riley Fitzgerald portrayed captivating focus, energy, and fluidity grounded in power and strength. Their movement qualities and emotional sensitivity made their performance particularly compelling.

Dean Elliott’s mesmerising solo toward the end decelerated the motion, drawing the work’s climax to a standstill and allowing the evocative score to pervade the breathless space.

Gadsby’s immersive set design, infused with dimensional smoke, exuded simple brilliance. Cooper’s celestial-like lighting expanded and contracted the space in which the dancers moved. The costumes’ tonal neutrality and torn textures subtly reflected the angled light, sculpting the dancers as they moved through time and space, capturing force, stillness, and the expansion and contraction of breath. The stripped-back nature and colour palette emphasised the rawness of the human essence.

The inspiration behind Momenta — derived from the Latin word movimentum (movement or motion) — implies a series of momentums. The collaborative minds behind this work infused their interpretations to portray moments in time, between people and emotional encounters. Bonachela’s movement set in Gadsby’s set and costumes created a cosmic sphere, leaning into the physics and gravitational pull found deep within connections. Cooper’s extraterrestrial-like lighting – with components inspired by childhood influences – and Wales’ score, sonically embracing the cyclic non-linear motion of momentum, featuring textural and choral elements, strings, piano, percussive motifs, vocals by soprano Jane Sheldon, and electronic elements, captured the essence of life — both abstract and beautiful.

Transcending physical limitations aesthetically and artistically, Momenta is a production that is not to be missed.

Momenta will be showing at Roslyn Packer Theatre from 28 May to 8 June. For tickets, visit

By Renata Ogayar of Dance Informa.

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