White lines, blurred lines – SDC’s dancers were the heroes of the evening

Sydney Dance Company is one very tough ensemble of dancers.

They gave it 100 percent and more, if possible, in the company’s double bill, labeled Louder Than Words.

Just one of the two works might have squeezed the energy out of the dancers, but the way they sustained their performances in the two pieces, danced at raceway speed, in combative duets, on the floor, as well as in the air, was a remarkable achievement.

I’m not sure if the dancers have covers in case of injury or illness but it looks as though each member of the ensemble will be on stage during this season for eight performances, plus a Saturday matinee, in what looks like the equivalent of the cardio workout of a half marathon.

Rafael’s Bonachela’s Scattered Rhymes and Andonis Foniadakis’ Parenthesis that followed, share a number of elements including loud music, some spoken text (not so loud) and sets that tended to shout a message – Bonachela’s with strobe lighting, neon-like stripes and lights dangling from cords high above, and Foniadakis’ dark setting of billowing fabric that resembles fragile trees trembling in a tropical storm.

Bonachela his title from the English composer, Tarik O’Regan, whose choral composition, Scattered Rhymes, sounds like a Mass and whose text refers to the poetry of Petrarch. O’Regan’s meditative music intermingles with Nick Wales’ electronic score that makes its entrance into the auditorium with all the bombast of a machine gun in action.

Ben Cisterne’s set is an intriguing artwork, with white lines on a black floor – a monotone background that complements and highlights the red leotards of the women, and the briefs of the men. In their duets, the dancers resemble track athletes or boxers in a ring.

When no story is evident, the mind tends to create one. For me, the duets of Scattered Rhymes represented human connection and suffering on earth while in contrast, the ensemble was a heavenly choir up above.

The ‘choir’ – an ensemble of 10 dressed in darker red tunics – were busily on the move, dancing step to a note, interspersed with frequent claps, numerous gestures in canon and in unison, and, near the end, feet moving sideways in a zig-zag formation.

Ben Cisterne’s inspired lighting design showed the dancers in silhouette, as if they were momentarily frozen within their whirling dervish spiral of steps and poses.

The Greek choreographer, Foniadakis, titled his work Parenthesis, a Greek word that in everyday use represents a snippet of extra information, often enclosed in brackets.

The vague program notes, referring to ‘interactions’ and ‘duality’ and other similar obscurities, left the audience to decide for themselves if Parenthesis was more than just an impressive looking word as a title.

The piece started strongly enough with the dancers hurtling onto the stage like an explosion of tribal creatures released from a thunderstorm. The women’s free flowing and pony-tailed hair was mirrored in their similarly free and distinctive costumes. The dresses could have been designed for the catwalk with their contrasting panels and crisscrossed straps in muted colours.

But the immediate impact ended, for me, soon after, with recorded, American accented voices intoning such phrases as: “Is there reality somewhere?”

Foniadakis, collaborating for Parenthesis with costume and fashion designer, Tassos Sofraniou, seemed to be referencing one of the couple’s previous works, an interpretation of Rite of Spring.

In Parenthesis, the chosen one/sacrificial victim wore a flesh coloured bodysuit. She was manhandled, wrapped around the legs of her male partners, and she smiled as she was held upside down and spread her legs.

But to what purpose? Duality and ‘interaction’ in this context looked like just another way to express a woman’s vulnerability.

Parenthesis ended with an Adam and Eve moment of reconciliation and eroticism but by then, it was too late and, as a dance conclusion, all too familiar.

Throughout the half hour, the dancers committed completely to the choreography they were given, but Parenthesis seemed like a work unfinished and with so much persistent speed, intensity and conflict, that for me it blurred any authentic human interaction.

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Scattered Rhymes, Sydney Dance Company, photo © Wendell Teodoro

Scattered Rhymes, Sydney Dance Company, photo © Wendell Teodoro

Scattered Rhymes, Sydney Dance Company, photo © Wendell Teodoro

Scattered Rhymes, Sydney Dance Company, photo © Wendell Teodoro

Parenthesis, Sydney Dance Company, photo © Wendell Teodoro

Parenthesis, Sydney Dance Company, photo © Wendell Teodoro

Scattered Rhymes, Sydney Dance Company, photo © Wendell Teodoro

Scattered Rhymes, Sydney Dance Company, photo © Wendell Teodoro

Parenthesis, Sydney Dance Company, photo © Wendell Teodoro

Parenthesis, Sydney Dance Company, photo © Wendell Teodoro

Parenthesis, Sydney Dance Company, photo © Wendell Teodoro

Parenthesis, Sydney Dance Company, photo © Wendell Teodoro