The West

SDC in poetic dance duet
Andrew Crawford and Juliette Barton in Rafael Bonachela’s 2 One Another. Picture: Ken Butti

I held you in my arms for as long as I could

Then each muscle broke down to liquid

And I had to let go of everything
.

It may well be a cliche to refer to dance as poetry in motion but the essence of both poetry and motion come together in the Sydney Dance Company's latest touring show.

The poetry of Australian writer Samuel Webster (above) holds hands in a symbiotic pas de deux with the choreography of Rafael Bonachela in the production 2 One Another.

"For me they are very evocative, open-ended sentences which helped me to build a dance," the SDC artistic director says of Webster's source material for the show coming to WA next month.

Music spanning the baroque to electronica, courtesy of composer Nick Wales, also holds together Bonachela's collage of dance duets (2), solos (One) and group sections (Another), which add up to the show's title.

Described as an exultant and sensual study of how people relate to each other, 2 One Another has won acclaim around the world since it premiered in 2012.

"We now look forward to bringing it over and sharing it with everyone," Bonachela says.

The simple two-one-group structural concept adds up to something deeply satisfying for the audience, he says. "I am very much into choreography in terms of abstract movement that implies behaviour, and relationship and emotional and psychological states."

2 One Another is performed by 16 dancers led by Helpmann Award-winner Charmene Yap. The WAAPA-trained Yap is one of several dancers with WA links, either through birth and training (Jessica Thompson, Juliette Barton) or having danced with the WA Ballet, as in the case of Cass Mortimer Eipper, David Mack and Paul Knobloch.

Bonachela invited Webster to be a fly on the studio wall as dancers exercised and tried out different tasks to generate movements and ideas. Webster's initial written responses then informed further ideas from Bonachela and so the show evolved in an organic and elegant to-and-fro.

"He gives a lot of meaning to situations and it really guided me through the work," Bonachela says. "There were the personalities of the dancers, there was the interaction of the dancers, there was the poetry and the music but at the end of the day, 2 One Another is a dance, from beginning to end."

Originally from La Garriga, a small town near Barcelona in Spain, Bonachela was a lead dancer and associate choreographer with the Rambert Dance Company in London for 15 years before starting his own company.

He took over from long-time SDC artistic director Graeme Murphy in 2009 and WA audiences were introduced to his work when his production We Unfold was performed in Perth in 2011.

Three years later and Bonachela has recently signed up for another five years at the helm that will see the company through to its 50th anniversary in 2019.

One project to pave the way to the anniversary is an archive of all of Murphy's work. "We want to preserve and digitalise all the good work that was done. It is a way of embracing the rich past of the company but also looking to the future and what dance has to offer."

While honouring the past, the company also has an eye to the future with its New Breed season for emerging Australian choreographers, a national education outreach program and with the first intake this year of 25 students into its new tertiary-certificate dance school.

"It is absolutely essential to educate young people in contemporary dance," Bonachela says. "Everyone gets a Shakespeare play come through their school and everyone gets a concert at some point. Why not contemporary dance? It is absolutely inspiring new generations into the beauty of the art."

The cultivation of new practitioners and new audiences extends to collaborations that broaden the company's reach: Project Rameau with the Australian Chamber Orchestra last year and projects involving Sarah Blasko, Katie Noonan and the Sydney Philharmonic Orchestra.

"Through collaboration you gain," Bonachela says. "Hopefully that will introduce new people to who we are and what we do. It is a way of breaking down barriers because contemporary dance has a lot of preconceptions. Certainly contemporary dance can be tricky at times and challenging and it is important that it is, but not all of it. It is absolutely about that variety and breadth."

The invitation to newcomers extends to reducing access costs by giving free tickets to disadvantaged schools and replacing expensive programs with free production notes in the foyer.

"We are trying to break the barriers but we have been making people pay $15 for a program," Bonachela says. "Let's make it free for them to read who we are and what we are about. Let's not make fancy programs that cost a lot, let's just make something we can afford and give them away."

2 One Another is at His Majesty’s Theatre from June 18-21, followed by performances in Mandurah, Albany, Bunbury and Geraldton.

The West Australian

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