Adelaide Festival Centre, 8 August 2019
Sydney Dance Company is marking its fiftieth anniversary with this three part performance, currently touring Australia. Although each half-hour long part is created by an individual choreographer (after which it is named; the title-names above were not used in the Adelaide performance), all three are connected by a sinuous melancholy. The corps, of 5 to 11 male and female dancers occupy an empty space, leavened only by fog and low, diffuse lighting.
The first piece, choreographed by Gabrielle Nankivell, begins and is punctuated by darkness and the sound of machinery, perhaps a lift to the underworld or to an alien planet. In this, and the third part, groups form and break, often watched by a lone outsider. The dancers sometimes line up or circle, like insects in an order obscure to the human observer. Nankivell says that this work is driven by a ‘mathematical approach’. Throughout the show, the modern dance style, although clearly minutely choreographed, lacks something in structure and the often awkward and ugly shapes of the dancers can grate, seeming at times to be made simply for grotesque effect. The use of hands and small, repetitive motions is well managed.
The middle and least effective part, choreographed by Rafael Bonachela and informed by his interest in “the just-beyond-our-grasp”, features a woman in yellow (for madness?) who separates herself and seems to undergo a terrible ordeal, mainly unassisted by the watchers. The final part, choreographed by Melanie Lane, is the most vibrant and easily accessible. Lane’s reference in the notes to the ‘contagion of crowd mentality…the group mind’ translates well into movement. The dancers wear black gloves, making them look deformed against the black background. These gloves turn out to be coats of a substance like charcoal which rubs off on the cast, which ultimately becomes an exhausted, grimy ,writhing pile of larvae-like limbs. The dancers’ enthusiasm for their roles was patent, their control and co-ordination were good indeed, until the third part, at which point the tiredness showed.
Minority Report from Peter (a Modern Dance Ignoramus) – At one stage we were shown fit youths writhing and capering fecklessly to a faux Bernard Herrmann soundtrack, in which violins are not so much played as beaten black and blue. The overall effect was fairly dazzling however.