Richard Cilli is one of Sydney Dance Company’s newest (and at 22, youngest) recruits, being one of four dancers picked from the 60 who auditioned before Sydney Dance Company’s Rafael Bonachela earlier this year.

Before the anticipated debut of 360˚ in Melbourne, Anna Lozynski interviewed Richard Cilli about the show and his successes to date.

Richard Cilli & Annabel Knight1. What can the audience expect from 360˚?
Be prepared for a super slick, sexy, powerful work that cruises through many different worlds and uses a unique physicality and beautiful design to create some breathtaking images.

2. What do you think sets Rafael Bonachela apart from other contemporary choreographers and artistic directors? Having only recently joined the company, what has impressed you about working with Bonachela to date?

Rafael lives to create movement. It's all about the movement. He is unafraid to explore and investigate, and when Rafael realises what he wants, it is abundantly clear. Within him lies a vision which gives him the ability to glean different and interesting movement from his dancers.  When you dance for him, he responds with 'I saw you doing it this way.” It then becomes my job to understand and recreate the vision or idea of that movement. It's quite gutsy movement, and although the work is abstract, Rafael's choreography is inherently emotional: to move with feeling and express something which cannot be expressed in words.  When Rafael is working in the studio, his positive energy is infectious. 

3. Describe your usual rehearsal day.

A usual rehearsal day begins with technique class. We alternate between classical ballet, contemporary dance, and yoga techniques throughout the week. It is important to have all of these as Rafael's choreography demands your body to work in all of these modes.  If we are in a creative phase, we spend quite a bit of time improvising, entering the world of the work, and opening up the possibilities for movement. Rafael will set tasks for people to create movement, or work with a dancer one on one to generate material. Much time is devoted to cleaning the choreography, which is complex and intricate.  

4. Tell us about the costume design featured in the piece. 
Designed by Tony Assness, they move from a natural, but slightly alien look of flesh toned, ribbed underwear, to the creature-like effect of black striped full body 'tattoo' unitards. The costumes accentuate the line, shape and movements of the body. Slashed up business trousers, corsets and dresses are also in the mix. The dancers cross between being human, and something beyond this. It's a very striking transformation to see.

5. What made you decide to pursue a professional dancing career and embark on a Bachelor of Arts (Dance) at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in favour of completing and pursuing a career in Law or Politics and International Studies?
I could not sit still at a desk or in a lecture. Law still interests me, and I intend to finish that degree, but there was a point when I had to make the choice of never dancing again, or dedicating my life to it. The choice was simple. And knowing that makes me work hard to keep on improving and developing my practice.   

6. If you could not be a professional dancer, what would you be doing?

I would have to be doing something where I could continue to communicate, to express. I'll be a creator no matter what I do. There is that Law degree still hanging around. I was interested in Administrative Law, so I could work in Arts policy for the government. I want to do everything! There's time for that isn't there?

7. You have recently said that you would have paid a lot of money to attend a workshop with Bonachela of Sydney Dance Company, let alone become a part of his ensemble. How did this opportunity arise?

During my graduation season at WAAPA, news spread that Sydney Dance were holding auditions, so I applied. I was accepted for the audition process, which was a surprise to me. A week after my final show at WAAPA the audition came around, and I turned up in Sydney with the idea that I would just go in there, and have a dance.  After two intensive, fantastic days I remained, along with three other dancers. At that point regardless of whether I had the job or not, I had learned so much and was grateful for the experience. The fact that I had got the job on top of that was too good to be true! I'm still pinching myself, and reminding myself of this rare and fantastic opportunity. So I make the most of it each day. 

8. What is the camaraderie like amongst the dancers of the company? Is it what you expected?
The rapport between dancers is very interesting. There are varied backgrounds and skill bases within the group, including those who are classically trained, and others with more contemporary training.  For a young company member, this is such a nurturing environment. At every turn, there is someone to help me allowing me to develop in all directions: technically, creatively and otherwise.  

As a new company we have gelled, and are a very positive, easy-going and hard-working group, ready to serve Rafael's artistic vision, and that of any guest choreographer.

9. You have worked as an assistant choreographer for Kissxxx (2006) and Dash (2007).
What draws you to choreography?
It is in my upbringing as a dancer from STEPS Youth Dance Company, that I have learned to investigate choreography, and explore all types of movement. I'm interested in what the human body can do, and what this can mean. Choreography is a skill which is separate, and equally as difficult as dancing, but it is a skill that I want to develop. 

Working for Rafael and guest choreographers is wonderful because I can observe the way they make dance, which in turn helps me form decisions about my method.

Richard Cilli & Annabel Knight 10. Do you have a pre-performance ritual?
I make sure that all parts of my body are moving the way they should. I prepare my mind for the journey that the particular work will take me on. Sometimes I like to improvise before a show: spitting out all the moves that I feel are inside me so I'm clear and ready to perform.

11. What do you miss about your home town Perth since moving to Sydney?
I miss my family of course. And nothing will beat the beach in Perth. Generally, living in Sydney has been one big step up. I would love to base myself in Perth as a dancer, but the opportunities for both development and employment are limited. I am happy to be in a place where I am growing and learning every single day.

12. Finally, tell us one thing people are always surprised to hear about you.

I'm learning to speak Mandarin. I started learning the language when I studied dance on exchange in Taipei in 2007. I hope to spend some time living in Taipei in the future, developing my choreographic practice.

Sydney Dance Company presents Rafaela Bonachela’s 360º - 13 - 16 May 2009 at the Playhouse Theatre, the Arts Centre. Further information»

Images -
Richard Cilli & Annabel Knight in

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