Reforging his hit work 2 One Another, Rafael Bonachela perfects his now signature style of furiously kinetic dance and vivid showmanship, and fills in a few gaps.
This rare standalone work has toured globally and been heaped with awards since the choreographer teamed with festival and party event designer Tony Assness to create it in 2012. They had come together four years earlier for Bonachela’s first full-length work for the Sydney Dance Company, 360 degrees, when he was still based in London.
Just months later Bonachela was arriving here with two suitcases, as the SDC’s new artistic director. Obviously it’s been a winning partnership.
2 One Another is a dance spectacle promising to explore the dynamic interaction of couples, solos and groups, hence the title.
This is an expertly realised spectacle, an absorbing dance attack that makes you nod your head to the beats of rising climax.
Sixteen athletic dancers, in tight dappled green outfits with fluoro spines, fervently busy themselves in individual gesture, interconnecting (or not) in groups big and small. While our eyes may struggle to focus and keep up, the choreography is kaleidoscopically inventive, suggesting a fever of relationships uncertain, sometimes aggressive, just sometimes tender, but ever shifting. Later Assness, as production and costume designer, rather inexplicably changes all the costumes to red.
Behind them is a huge LED screen of lights, variously morphing into a starry night sky, a cascading waterfall, a spreading pond of rich colour. The empty stage is starkly lit white (by Benjamin Cisterne) without shadow or subtlety. The spotlight is on the dancers.
Meaning is obscure – this is dance after all, and Bonachela has no interest in the sort of narrative or individual characterisation beloved by his predecessor Graeme Murphy. But the impact is electric and, at its best, Bonachela’s big ensemble work has a kinetic thrill to match the choreography of giants like William Forsythe. There are occasional words of poetry from Samuel Webster but these are slight.
What really suggests deeper themes and human yearnings is the beauty and historic sweep of the score from Nick Wales. He alternates Baroque strings, delicate choral and enough pulsating electronica to make your chest rattle. He plucks music from the Spanish electro acoustic composer Murcof and later from Latvia’s Peteris Vasks, but overall Wales drives the show, expertly meshing such work with his own into a musical journey through time and humanity. The strings, especially the cello (Bonachela’s usually favourite backing for his choreography), pull at the heart, even when the massed dancing is becoming relentless.
As for Bonachela’s more intimate choreographic moments, at the premiere of 2 One Another, I remember these, typically, as more quirky signatures than emotionally engaging. But less so in this reworking.
The imposing Juliette Barton and expressive Bernhard Knauer shine in their ongoing duet, a couple passionate but also ironic in gesture. Bonachela’s transitions between small and large group dance work are also here more more fluid and flawless. And the solos are especially eye-catching, notably from Charmene Yap, diminutive, agile and rich in characterisation. Yap has already won three top awards for her dancing in 2 One Another. Cass Mortimer Eipper’s dancing also stands out.
This is an expertly realised spectacle, an absorbing dance attack that makes you nod your head to the beats of rising climax. As for the deeper meanings of 2 One Another, one certainly became clear on opening night when, behind the curtain call, the LED switching to a rainbow of colours etched out the words, Vote Yes.
2 One Another is at Roslyn Packer Theatre Walsh Bay, Sydney until October 14. All images by Peter Greig