Arts / Where dance comes from deep inside

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Janessa Dufty and Izzac Carroll in “ab [intra]”… pure contemporary dance, “quite literally a work of breadth and scale.” Photo by Pedro Greig

ONE of Sydney Dance Company director Rafael Bonachela’s all-time favourite films is Stephen Daldry’s 2000 movie, “Billy Elliot”.

That’s easy to understand. The story of a boy who grows up in a non-dancing home in north-eastern England but ends up performing in “Swan Lake” is not only a tearjerker, but it bears a partial likeness to Bonachela’s own life story.

Sydney Dance Company director Rafael Bonachela… “Things have changed since I was a child… boys didn’t dance in Spain.” Photo by Dom Northcott

“CityNews” caught up with the noted Barcelona-born choreographer and director during a recent visit to Canberra, when he was here to see QL2 Dance’s show “Two Zero” as their newly-announced patron – and he’s particularly impressed by its long-time support for boys in dance.

“Things have changed since I was a child… boys didn’t dance in Spain,” he tells us.

“It was okay for us to play football, but dance must always come as a passion.”

Bonachela never had an older sister who might have gone to dance classes, but says: “It’s just something you need to do and luckily my parents supported me.”

Funnily enough, back during his brilliant career in London, where he worked with Rambert Dance Company and directed his own Bonachela Dance Company, he heard about QL2 from alumnus and now international dancer and filmmaker, Paul Zivkovich.

He praises the “very impressive” modern-day initiatives in youth dance that see young girls and boys dance while also becoming friends, saying that through dance young people can have a sense of achievement.

He’s also been observing the cohesiveness of the hip-hop dance scene. On a recent visit to South America he saw enormous crowds of hip-hop dancers performing in front of big buildings such as museums.

Nelson Earl. Photo by Pedro Greig

“Young people bond together through dance despite the fact that in this life there is so much destruction, so much technology,” he says.

This year, Bonachela has been 10 years at the helm of Sydney Dance Company, having come to Australia in 2008 to direct just one show, “360°”, after which he was persuaded to take on the directorship “for a while”, as he told “CityNews” shortly after assuming his position.

Now, under his direction, the company holds the largest public dance class program in Australia, attracting nearly 80,000 participants each year and, more cause to celebrate, will celebrate its 50th year in 2019.

He says his new production, “ab [intra]” is pure contemporary dance, “quite literally a work of breadth and scale; 16 immensely talented individuals who are unique”.

The extraordinary diversity of the dancers in the company is something he is especially proud of and he believes that has been acknowledged in their international tours to everywhere from Paris to Boston.

Bonachela has been doing some research and has sourced the title of “ab [intra]” from the Latin meaning, “from within” – in his view exactly where all dancing comes from, an irrepressible force that comes from deep inside.

Charmene Yap and Davide Di Giovanni. Photo by Pedro Greig

“We connect at a very intimate, visceral way, I never do narrative dance, but people are blasted away by the sheer artistry of this.”

Over the years here, all his works, from “Project Rameau” to “2 in D Minor”, have been driven by music, usually created, as is the case with “ab [intra]”, with his long-time collaborator, Australian composer Nick Wales.

“It’s a combination of beautiful classical music and electronic music, my two favourite things – a very delicate cello concerto that becomes sublime, combined with the electronic world of Nick,” he says.

“The way he works with dancers is to get them telling their own stories, their memories, their experiences.

“Our Australian dancers are very beautiful, saying through their art, ‘this is who we are and where we live’ – it gives the audience a wonderful energy.”

“ab [intra]”, The Playhouse, August 30-September 1.

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Helen Musa
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