From Cacti to Rameau: the year ahead for Sydney Dance Company

Sydney Dance Company’s 2013 season will begin with a double bill – a new work, Emergence by the company’s artistic director, Rafael Bonachela, and Cacti, choreographed by Alexander Ekman, the associate choreographer at Nederlands Dans Theater.

Performed by the young dancers of NDT II in London earlier this year, Cacti was generally well received by the UK critics with The Guardian’s Judith Mackell praising its “party spirit” and its “irreverent mix of martial arts, sports, hand-jiving and voguing.

“The whip-smart timing of this piece as it juggles these incongruous elements is pure pleasure. The central duet, in which the dancers’ taped voices comment ironically on what they’re doing is a masterclass in pacing and pitch. Running through certain sections is a recorded commentary that muses on the work’s possible meanings. A postmodern joke on postmodernism, it is silly, clever and knowing”.

For Emergence, Bonachela will again collaborate with the composer, Nick Wales, (the two worked together previously on 2 One Another,) as well as the singer songwriter Sarah Blasko and fashion designer, Dion Lee.

Bonachela has a fondness for working with fashion designers. Josh Goot designed the costumes for Sydney Dance Company’s 6 Breaths and in the UK, Bonachela has worked with fashion designers Benjamin Kirchhoff and Edward Meadham.

The Emergence/Cacti double bill, marketed under the title De Novo, will be presented in Sydney and Melbourne, with Bonachela’s work, 2 One Another, touring to Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin, and his Project Rameau to Brisbane and Canberra.

Details of a Sydney Dance Company tour of North and South America will be announced early next year.

Project Rameau, opening in Sydney on 29 October, is collaboration between SDC and the Australian Chamber Orchestra which will play the music of Vivaldi, J S Bach, and Jean-Philippe Rameau with most of the music comprising excerpts from Rameau’s 18th century operas-ballets – Dardanus, Les fetes d’Hebe, Hippolyte de Aricie, Platee, Nais, Les Boreades, Pigmalion and Les indes galantes.

Bonachela’s choreography will not duplicate in any way the dance forms of that age which included the minuet and gavotte.

Lincoln Kirstein, the financial backer of George Balanchine and a dance historian, has written extensively on the composer and his importance to the development of dance in the 18th century.

“He was not”, Kirstein wrote, “a trained dancer [but] he understood kinetic propulsion”.

Rameau “specified individual characterisations, articulate melody, and, especially, novel rhythms that ‘seemed to take dancers by the hand’…

“Rameau’s music opened a path to elevate it [dance] above the boards, towards acrobacy, with more turns, beats and jumps”.

So we have Rameau to thank for the petit allegro steps and batterie (beaten steps) of ballet such as the entrechats and changements first seen in the work of Marie Camargo – the favourite dancer of those who adored Rameau –who shortened her skirts to reveal her ankles and show her feet in elevation.

I wonder if Bonachela will be able to resist adding one little beaten step to Project Rameau?

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Cacti, NDT II, photo © Rahi Rezvani

Cacti, NDT II, photo © Rahi Rezvani

Marie Camargo

Marie Camargo

Jean-Philippe Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau