The Sydney Dance Company is known for its contemporary productions which attract widespread critical acclaim, and star-studded premieres. So why is its artistic director, Rafael Bonachela, 40, so eager to impress a bunch of kindergarten kids?
‘‘Everyone gets a Shakespeare play, everyone goes to see football, everyone knows about sports, but what about dance?’’ Bonachela says, explaining he has plans for performances for three-year-olds.
“Sometimes people can be scared of contemporary dance. I understand, because dance is not in the curriculum in Australia but hopefully that’s changing. In 2014 or maybe next year we’re having our first preschool matinee.”
The Barcelona-born choreographer’s interest in educating the public is indicative of his egalitarian attitude to an art form that can seem exclusive.
It is this fresh approach, along with his enthusiasm for exploring new ideas, that has gained the dance company a new following. Ticket sales have jumped nearly 50 per cent since Bonachela came on board in 2009.
His latest production, 2 One Another, uses poetry and narration as a backdrop to the physical expression of the dance world.
The piece was largely experimental, defined only by Bonachela’s determination to base it on the 16 dancers who feature in the work. ‘‘I decided that all the vocabulary, the material, and the content had to come from within the four walls of the studio,’’ he says.
Bonachela invited poet Samuel Webster to observe the dancers absorbed in various exercises, one of which involved pairs in a “silent conversation that was driven through movement”.
“Sam’s mission was to watch that conversation and interpret it,” Bonachela says. “He wrote the most wonderful, amazing, evocative and rich text about things that he saw.”
This sparked a kind of dialogue between the poet and the performers, with the dancers re-interpreting the words into movement and also recording parts of the poetry which composer Nick Wales then “wove into the music to give it texture”.
The resulting work is about “16 individuals who have different personalities, different ways of moving, different ways of approaching things” – but at the same time, Bonachela emphasises that dance doesn’t have to be about anything.
He says much of the joy comes from letting the imagination run wild when watching a performance. “The great and positive thing is that so many people have stopped me after the SDC shows,” he says.
“I remember this guy going, ‘Mate, I’ve never been to a dance show, my girlfriend brought me and I didn’t know what it was about but I loved it’, and I was like, ‘that’s great’, because it’s the best thing when you are just free to imagine.”
2 ONE ANOTHER
Where: Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
When: 8pm performances November 21 to December 1, plus 4pm performance November 24
Bookings: Call 1300 182183 or visit artscentremelbourne.com.au