we unfold | Sydney Dance CompanyPhotos - David Wyatt

The discovery of a work that simply needs to be consumed and felt, rather than explained, is a magical moment. But in expressing this experience there comes a curious complication; there is so much and yet so little to say.

Rafael Bonachela’s we unfold is one such work. It is his first production as Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company, although many will remember his acclaimed work 360°, which he brought with the SDC to Melbourne in 2009.

For Melbourne audiences we unfold is a refreshing departure from the quite masculine, and de-humanised, yet no less engaging, modern dance works that we have seen of late. It is fluid and unmistakably human.

Hugh Taranto’s lighting is understated for the most part, and simply highlights the dancers. Jordan Askill’s costumes serve much the same purpose. Skin coloured and minimal, it is easy to forget that they are even there, except for a hint of a silver sequin that every so often catches the light and gives the dancers a somewhat ethereal quality.

Choreographically, whilst there are superb solos, there is great emphasis on the interaction of the human body with that of another. Bonachela’s attention to detail, and his dancers’ execution of this under Rehearsal Director Amy Hollingsworth, is enthralling. Whether it be in moments of great intensity, or the delicate climbing onto, lifting, and manoeuvring of each other, there is the incredible extension of limbs, the flick of a foot to ward off another dancer, the pulse of the fingers as a hand is raised in the air, and the hold of a meaningful gaze. All of which communicate a mood that moves subtly between intimacy, resistance, desperation, and celebration.

Integral to we unfold is Ezio Bosso’s Symphony No. 1, Oceans. The classical nature of the score is again a nice change from the often artificial sounds that are chosen to accompany many modern dance productions. It has all the ebbs and flows that one would expect from a piece of music with such a title but also some extremely moving climaxes. To experience we unfold and Oceans with a live orchestra would be wonderful, particularly on this particular evening given the (temporary and extremely professionally handled) technical difficulties with the music early in the show.

A video designed by Daniel Askill, projected from floor to ceiling behind the dancers, gives the work yet another level of complexity. In slow motion is the movement through the stars of a seemingly endless universe, the breaking up of a planet, the burning sun that shrinks to darkness, and the cleansing movement of water. These elements of air, earth, fire and water are a powerful and constant presence but as time goes on the images morph into that of a giant human figure, a projection of an individual dancer, which subtly changes, rotates, and rises to float just above the ground. The result is the sense of a journey taken by the dancer and human as an individual, with each other, and in relation to the wider world, one in which the actions of a human are just as powerful as those of any other force.

we unfold is perhaps most remarkable in the way that it re-conditions the gaze of its audience. At first, with several dancers on stage at once, with giant images behind them, and each demanding attention as they traverse a great amount of stage space, it is difficult to know who or what to look at or follow. But before long, it becomes not so much a case of the eye following the dancers, but rather, trusting that the dancers and the music will show the way. And when they do comes something most extraordinary.

Sydney Dance Company presents Rafael Bonachela’s
we unfold

Venue: the Arts Centre, the Playhouse
Dates: 9-13 November 2010
Times: Tuesday –Saturday 8pm; Wed 1pm matinee; Saturday 4pm matinee
Duration: One hour
Tickets: $40 - $70
Bookings: theartscentre.com.au | Ticketmaster 1300 182 183

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