The West

Sublime dance falls short on emotion
SDC dancers at His Majesty's Theatre. Picture by Dione Davidson/WA News


2 One Another

Sydney Dance Company

4 stars

His Majesty’s Theatre


It's been three years since Sydney Dance Company last performed in Perth - long enough to make a return visit feel eventful, but just in time to ensure we don't feel neglected. It's also not so long ago in terms of remembering the last performance, company artistic director Rafael Bonachela's We Unfold.

SDC has brought another Bonachela work to Perth, 2 One Another. According to the program notes, this production "explores and celebrates relationships and the beauty of the human form".

Since it premiered in 2012, 2 One Another has won numerous national awards - but does the work live up to its reputation?

At one level, there is nothing to fault. The dancers are gorgeous to watch - they've been given choreography to showcase their technical prowess. The set design by Tony Assness, which features a matrix of tiny, ever-changing lights, is mesmerising. Nick Wales' sound design, which blends a seemingly disparate mix of electronica, Renaissance and contemporary choral music, baroque and contemporary string compositions and spoken word, provides a rich aural backdrop.

Casting one's mind back to We Unfold, however, it feels somewhat formulaic. A big ever-changing backdrop? Tick. A dramatic, multi-layered original score with prominent featuring of string music? Tick.

And then there's the choreography, which supposedly is about relationships and the human form. Most of the duet and ensemble sections focus purely on the latter - the physical relationship between two or more moving bodies, rather than anything obviously emotional. The backdrop of tiny but super-bright lights often adds a clinical air.

As with We Unfold, there is also a sense that the movement dynamic does not vary enough from what appears to be Bonachela's trademark - smooth, sculptural movement, designed to highlight the dancers' immaculate technique and bodies. It makes the 65-minute duration seem longer than it should.

Happily, there are moments that feel more human and/or more choreographically distinct. Charmene Yap's solo is one of these, comprising rippling, flickering, punch-in- the-gut movement, punctuated by a silent scream. Yap oozed and snapped her way through it with her customary super-suave style.

Another more human moment is in a duet between Juliette Barton and Bernhard Knauer, in which the two dancers manipulate each other's bodies like puppets against a soundscape of disembodied voices and rumbling strings.

A cartoon-like duo between Knauer and Chen Wen also breaks the mood mould with its stylised, almost slapstick feel.

I don't recall We Unfold having these breakaways from the main look and feel of the work. Perhaps Bonachela has started to branch out. Given that this work is already a couple of years old, I'd be interested to see whether his more recent works display more choreographic variety.

The enthusiastic and protracted applause at the end suggests many audience members might not agree with my criticisms.

In fairness, I can see why that might be the case. It's all very watchable and listenable, and the dancers . . . oh, the dancers. As always, they were sublime.

2 One Another ends Saturday night at His Majesty's Theatre and tours to Mandurah (Wednesday), Albany (June 28), Bunbury (July 2) and Geraldton (July 5).

The West Australian

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