Celebrating 45 years of artistic innovation, the Sydney Dance Company held a luxe opening night for it’s triple bill on a Monday evening in Sydney. Unconventional, but completely appropriate. Interplay blends the abstract je ne sais quoi of contemporary with deeply human connections, showcasing dance as an art form that bridges ordinary life and the sublime.

2 in D Minor © Wendell Teodoro
2 in D Minor
© Wendell Teodoro

With no introduction and little warning, the show begins with 2 in D Minor, a new piece by SDC’s Artistic Director, Rafael Bonachela. Bonachela’s contract with the company has just been renewed for another 5 years, and it is clear that he is a perfect fit with the company’s current vision. The music is played by a single violinist on stage, who displays stunning mastery of her instrument as she works her way through five of the complete set of six solos for violin that comprise Bach’s 2 in D minor series. As transitions, each solo is broken down into static-filled, hypermodern remixes. Just as the music is made for a solo, so the dancers perform alone or in isolated pairs.

Mirroring the timelessness of the music, the movement was unending. Even standing still, the echo of the last step and the vibration of anticipation for the one to come lingered in the air. Someone once told me that when choosing music for dance, in order to create your best work you should look immediately to the masters. Bonachela has done just this, paying homage to Bach and stripping the choreography of any discernible story. The partner work was raw and fluid. The shapes were cold but striking, like the architecture of a skyscraper. A special hats off goes to the female duo whose endless legs and weaving floorwork I could have kept watching for days.

Raw Models © Wendell Teodoro
Raw Models
© Wendell Teodoro

After the new, Raw Models looks back at a recent classic. Originally presented in 2011, Jacopo Godani’s choreography is as relevant as ever. Disappearing airplanes, civil wars, corrupt politics… It seems like the whole world could benefit from a refreshed way of being. Totally opposing the partitioned opening piece, here we see the dancers in a tightly knit group in which each working part adds to the united entity. It felt like watching DNA, seeing a million unique bits combining into an awesome whole.

Electric sound waves and clicks contrasted with liquid motion for a confusing but compelling start. The heavy bass was like a heartbeat throughout, and the flashing lights and overall intensity of the piece made me feel like a player in a real life game of Halo. Exploration is a key theme, in an eerie, science fiction kind of way. No direction, body part, or curve is left untried. I found myself hating the physical limitations of the human body, wondering how this piece could be pushed if heads could roll.

L'Chaim! © Wendell Teodoro
L'Chaim!
© Wendell Teodoro

Finally, L’Chaim! – A stream of colours is suddenly zipping across the stage, moving in every which way. It doesn’t fit the mood, which is probably why it starts with such a shock, the crowd barely yet back in their seats. It’s spastic and the kind of fake happy that makes you pinch your face. It didn’t fit until it slowed down, the dancers breaking into two identical groups, and each person acting in exact unison with their counterpart from the opposite group, unbeknown to them. Now it completely fits, bringing the show full circle by giving the illusion of community within the group, then completely destroying that facade by exposing the actual isolation of each character.

Whether you think L’Chaim is more theatre or more dance doesn’t make much difference to what you get out of it. Either way, the loose, folk-like dancing is as relatable as any common gesture, like a handshake or a smile. The dynamic of the group speaks louder than dialogue as individual dancers are called out by an omniscient voice, mostly to answer personal and unrelated questions. This completely extroverted work plunges the viewer into introspection, bringing up questions about our place in the world and our ability to connect.

It is difficult to rate this show as each of the choreographies that make it up appeal to me in different and varying ways. To look at all three pieces as a whole, the sequencing and progression of Interplay is beautifully thought out. Three pieces that might sit differently on their own truly stand out when set back to back, and three divergent styles appeal to a single audience thanks to what goes unsaid between them. What is certain is that the quality and talent of Sydney Dance Company is exciting both technically and creatively, and all my applause goes to the dancers for seamlessly transitioning between so many creative worlds in a fully-charged 2 hours of thought-provoking entertainment.