Dance review: ab [intra] | ArtsHub Australia

a B [intra], meaning ‘from within’ in Latin is a surprisingly moving work of contemporary dance from the world-renowned Sydney Dance Company. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that audiences were drawn to the edge of their seats by the sheer sum of this work, with its near-perfect formation, weightless balances, and dramatic audiovisual effects. But by far the most sublime aspect of the performance was the dancers’ almost mechanical precision and their delivery of some of the most technically complex choreography I’ve seen in years.

The lighting mimicked the visual effect of chiaroscuro, with high contrast light and dark areas. At the center of the drama was a moving shadow on the stage, like blinds or the opening and closing of a sunroof. This increased the claustrophobia and intimacy of the room. The dancers seemed to be on a distant plain at once, sometimes a jumble of bodies swaying and falling into each other, at other times particularly tender and bonding. The tension between separation/connection and isolation/closeness was a recurring device in the work, exemplified most beautifully through the dance duets.

Unsurprisingly, choreographer Rafael Bonachela mentions in his program notes that the choreography developed from improvisations, where he asked dancers to be “in the moment” with each other, using these instincts and physical and emotional cues and translating them into writing. These written excerpts have become a sort of score or script for the dance and demonstrate the company’s interdisciplinary prowess.

a B [intra] was a supreme example of how dancers can command admiration through their individual technical perfection, while creating something greater than the sum of their parts. The room seemed to radiate vastness. The caliber of the dance was so advanced that when they danced in unison, it seemed just perfect, like automatons.

The outlines of the dancers were very visible with skin-tight costumes; reminding us that they are both athletes and artists. Some of the lifts and balances were thrilling, indeed acrobatics. The nude-colored outfit (designed by costume and production designer, David Fleischer) was exchanged for black for a pas de deux reminiscent of the Black Swan section of Swan Lake, enhancing the dark and passionate drama of the play. This duo (Chloe Leong and Davide Di Giovanni) move in and out of each other’s orbit with effortless control; lifting, leaning and merging into each other.

The effect of these moments of connection, against other moments of dissolution (lone dancers walking around the periphery of the stage) was overwhelming and commanded the audience’s concentration. It was like being in the middle of a wind tunnel; pulled inward towards the synchronic impact of movement and music.

I remembered the writings of Anaïs Nin on love, that when the romantic and sentimental register of two bodies and souls that unite enters into a work, it is felt universally. It is the part of a work, especially dance – the most embodied form of art – that touches a public. The beauty of this piece also resides in the various expressions of this link, not just masculine/feminine, as it is classically represented in no two. The room seemed to gesture toward the universality of affection, the fact that, as Nin once wrote, love reduces the complexity of being‘.

Read: Dance review: Manifesto

The music, by Nick Wales, underscored the changing landscape of tumult and leniency in the work, with electronics, strings and percussion. A cello piece by Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks added warmth and tenderness to the not both.

Sydney Dance Company has reestablished its reputation as a technically excellent and visionary contemporary dance company. Their next season promises even more visual and emotional nuggets, with resounda triple program featuring Ocho and Summer. The performances are a collaboration between Rafael Bonachela and, among other artists, indigenous singer Rrawun Maymuru, fashion company Romance Was Born, and the Australian String Quartet. It also includes a brand new piece by emerging choreographer, Stephanie Lake. The dates are: October 28 to November 5, 2022. Book early to experience the summer of SDC delights.

a B [intra]
Sydney Dance Company
Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney
Choreography: Rafael Bonachela
Music: Nick Wales
Lighting: Damien Cooper
Costume Design and Production: David Fleischer

a B [intra] took place from June 2 to 11 2022.