Review: Sydney Dance Company’s ab [intra]

Diana Carroll

Rafael Bonachela's new work is stark and stunning.
Review: Sydney Dance Company’s ab [intra]

Janessa Dufty and Izzac Carrollab in ab [intra]. Photo by Pedro Greig.

The opening night audience was effusive in its applause at the world premiere of this exciting new work by Rafael Bonachela, the Sydney Dance Company’s choreographer and artistic director.

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Bonachela says ab [intra], taken from the Latin meaning ‘from within, is “more than the external expression of internal concepts, in this dance sphere it is a representation of energy – an energy derived from the interaction of these two facets of our worlds”.

And the energy on stage is electrifying. The dancers display astonishing power and precision as they work through the complex movements, sometimes in massed ensembles of up to 15 dancers, and in solos, duos and trios.

Charmene Yap and Davide Di Giovanni in ab [intra]. Photo by Pedro Greig.

The most dramatic moments come in the duos with passionate and intricate work uniting the dancers in a melange of entwined bodies. This is contemporary dance at its highest level, and all the dancers are masters of their craft. Izzac Carroll was especially impressive, an imposing and charismatic presence on stage. Janessa Dufty, Jesse Scales, and Nelson Earl were also on fine form throughout.

The full theatrical experience is showcased by the dramatic music and superb lighting. Composer Nick Wales, a long-time associate of Bonachela and the SDC, has created a soundscape that intensifies the emotionality of the work. Excerpts of the Concerto No. 2 for cello and strings by Peteris Vasks, with cello played by Julian Thompson, give an added depth to the more usual electronica dance accompaniment.  

Janessa Dufty and Izzac Carrollab in ab [intra]. Photo by Pedro Greig.

The success of ab [intra] owes much to Damien Cooper’s intelligent lighting design that intensifies each moment. It is stark and stunning, and yet still hazy and understated.

Ultimately dance is about the body. We need to see the body, see the sinews, see the sweat, to really feel the power and emotion in the dance. To my mind, the dancers should be as unclothed as possible. Unfortunately costume and production designer David Fleischer chose loose black dance pants for much of the work, concealing the athleticism of the dancers. There was more power and intimacy in the first few movements when they were wearing leotards, shorts, and dance tights.

ab [intra] is an impressive piece and clearly places the Sydney Dance Company as a leader in creating and performing new work.

4 ½ stars: ★★★★☆

ab [intra]

Sydney Dance Company

Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney

Choreographer: Rafael Bonachela
Composer: Nick Wales
Lighting: Damien Cooper
Costumes and Sets: David Fleischer

 ab [intra] continues at the Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney, until May 26, then touring to Melbourne and nationally to Sept 1st.

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Sydney. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the SMH, the Oz, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.

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