Sydney Dance Company: 2 One Another - review

2 One Another
Sydney Dance Company

ASB Theatre
November 13, 2014

 

Sydney Dance Company’s 2 One Another is an ensemble dance work led by artistic director and choreographer Raphael Bonachela. Originally made in 2012, it's a choreographic collaboration between Bonachela, the dancers of the company, poet Sam Webster, set and costume designer Tony Assness, and composer/music director Nick Wales. New Zealand hasn’t had a look at Sydney Dance Company since Bonachela brought his work 360 to the Christchurch Festival of the Arts in 2009.

Broadly the main thematic idea underpinning the work is "relationships"’ which makes the show conceptually diffuse. Bonachela takes a panoramic view of relationships and uses an hour-long montage structure to showcase very adroit dancing.

2 One Another is a contemporary dance work made with an Impressionistic focus on movement, the passage of time, and unusual angles. By his own admission, Bonachela typically avoids narrative and physical theatre, leaving us with a stripped-out but dense and full dance work.

The piece had an almost subliminal feel to it. It was both effortless to digest and bizarrely elusive to read. "Oh the dancers are wearing red now…no time to explain, just keep watching." Don’t get me wrong – it was an enjoyable experience. It’s just that I’ve never felt compelled to describe a big budget contemporary dance work as "ambient" before.

The work began with 17 dancers dressed uniformly in grey. Hand gestures became established as an ever-present leitmotif in the dancers' movement vocabulary. Very quickly they became human glyphs, partially due to their constant silent gestural chatterings and partially due to the giant backdrop presence of a wall of LED lights. That particular design artifact sometimes gave the show a cold, retro-futuristic, music video feel.

But back to the dancers, who embody the work. Dancers of this calibre are a node of fantasy for an audience. Bodies to project ideas of perfection onto. This group of artists display a level of physical proficiency that is at times profound. They also manage to pull off a flavour of performance that is both supremely confident and self-deprecating. Although their level of connection to each other and the material is abundant, the dancers' connection to the audience seems curiously opaque.

As a choreographer, Bonachela’s craftsmanship is highly refined. He is a collaborative maker. He has a tightly focused, almost cinematic eye and knows how to frame action within the proscenium arch with extreme proficiency - almost to a fault. Nothing seemed out of place, ever, not even by a hair. The work felt even and contained, even as it built in intensity. It never lost control, never flew apart.

2 One Another stayed firmly and deeply within a narrowed strata of dynamics. Controlled, perfect, and distant without being cold. 2 One Another was a concise and self-assured work which welcomed your gaze, then calmly and happily ignored absolutely all of your questions about it.

Until November 15.