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  • Fiona Prior

Sydney Dance Company - Untamed

Sydney Dance Company



The spectacle of contemporary dance shared with a lovely friend on a dazzling Spring day in Sydney is one of life’s nicer treats; particularly when the approach to Roslyn Packer Theatre has you winding round Sydney’s iconic harbour, past crowds revelling on a perfect day, pop-up markets selling colourful artefacts in the cobbled laneways of the Rocks area, and children playing ballgames and flying kites on the greens of Hickson Road Reserve.

Two works are performed in Sydney Dance Company’s Untamed, Wildebeest choreographed by Gabrielle Nankivell; and Anima choreographed by Sydney Dance Company Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela, in collaboration with the SDC dancers.

Wildebeest is a trippy piece of dance theatre that traces the evolution from primordial beasties to lifeforms that are more like humans and beyond. Herds morph into tribes; bog creatures into evolutionary cousins, possibly both human and mechanistic. I gleaned all this from the action on stage. A particular play of lighting by Benjamin Cisterns brought Wildebeest alive for me, evoking electrical energy from a dramatic storm striking life into the forms that inhabit gloomy marshes and desolate bogs. Light design also punctuated transitions as the dancers evoked all the different phases of life with a gesture or a configuration ‒ a clawed and birdlike hand, a young animal making the astonishing trip to awareness, the outsider finding the tribe, the herd preying on the loner…

The second work, Anima, by Bonachela, strangely compliments Wildbeest.

Though Bonachela does not tell stories with his work he does provoke engagement with the audience using lighting, stage design, music and of course the extraordinary physicality of the dancers.

Composer Dobrinka Tabakova’s soundtrack evokes a sense of longing for transcendence and Bonachela’s dancers meet the music’s longing by trying to defy the bondage of gravity and our earth-bound condition. Filters of luminous colour, again by light designer Benjamin Cisterne are interspersed with the glowing imprints of dancers, and a frenzy of aspirational grand jetés (big leaps), dives and relentless attempts to leave behind the shackles of physicality and fly, bring this high octane piece to its frenzied and glorious conclusion.

Untamed was performed at Roslyn Packer Theatre Walsh Bay, Sydney

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