Gabrielle thrills to having her head in the clouds

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Gabrielle Nankivell’s “Neon Aether”… in Canberra next month. Photo: Pedro Grieg

IT’S Sydney Dance Company’s 50th anniversary this year and when the elite troupe comes to Canberra it’ll be in party mood.

Later, in November, they’ll have a bigger birthday bash in Sydney’s Roslyn Packer Theatre, when there’ll be time to look back on a history that began in 1969 when it was founded by Suzanne Musitz Davidson.

Choreographer Gabrielle Nankivell… a busy artist. Photo: Pedro Grieg

In the meantime, all eyes will be on the contemporary choreography of three artists, Rafael Bonachela, Gabrielle Nankivell and Melanie Lane in a triple bill of edgy dance.

Speaking from Port Pirie, she has been doing a residency for Country Arts SA. Originally from the Eyre Peninsula, she’s familiar with the region and is tickled pink that the triple bill will travel later to the theatre in Whyalla.

Her new work “Neon Aether” is an SDC premiere aimed at transporting dancers and viewers to the upper regions of air beyond the clouds.

Nankivell is a busy artist, but also leads classes and workshops internationally in improvisation, performance practice, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and contemporary technique.

“This is the second time I’ve choreographed a work for Sydney Dance Company and I wanted to do something at the other end of the spectrum this time,” she says.

“My earlier piece ‘Wildebeest’ was very much about the primal instincts of animals and hunting and other grounded things… I wanted to work with something that doesn’t make sense, something more ambitious.”

The music for the 29-minute-long “Neon Aether” has been composed by dancer-sound artist Luke Smiles, well known to Canberra audiences from his time with Chunky Move.

“Luke and I have collaborated on about 10 soundtracks and shows, including ‘Wildebeest’,” she says. “He’s even danced in some of my shows… his music is quite distinctive and he’s very much in demand for dance, theatre and film.”

“Neon Aether”, she says, is about our relationship to air. She has combined ideas about air “to find a new movement vocabulary, to give the dancers a kind of environment to explore a kind of landscape of emotion that had a physical aspect in the body.”

The idea of “neon” came to her as something airy which evoked colours, while “aether”, which she describes as an archaic word, was the word for a substance once thought to permeate space.

“Neon Aether” falls into five levels, representing a gradual ascension through different atmospheres, so does it end on a high note or a quiet note?

“You can have both those things at once, it’s for the audience to decide,” Nankivell says.

“Bonachela/Nankivell/Lane”, Sydney Dance Company, Canberra Theatre, May 2-4. Book at 6275 2700.


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Helen Musa
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