Rafael Bonachela reveals Sydney Dance Company's 2015 line-up
By Ben Neutze, Crikey.com.au 16 September 2014
Sydney Dance Company artistic director Rafael Bonachela today revealed he will open his sixth annual program at the company with a work from one of the world's most celebrated choreographers, William Forsythe. Quintett was created in 1993 as a final love letter to Forsythe's wife Tracy-Kai Maier, who was terminally ill at the time.
For Bonachela, who has implemented massive changes in his time as artistic director at SDC, getting the production here is a personal triumph. Forsythe closely guards the work and only lets select companies perform it, but three dancers, including two from the original cast, are travelling to Australia to stage the work with the SDC dancers.
"This is a milestone — a really historical moment for the company," Bonachela says. "I've been working on getting it here for a couple of years. I saw it in London in the mid-90s when i was a dancer. In theatre, dance and the arts, there are those moments when you walk out and you know that something has changed. And you can't explain why, but you know you've been through an experience that's challenged, inspired and changed you."
International collaboration, as well as exporting SDC productions, has been a big part of Bonachela's six years as artistic director. He says that increasingly, contemporary dance is becoming globalised, and geographical lines are less important.
"It's a question I've asked myself," he says. "A lot of people ask me what Spanish influences are in my work — I left Spain when I was 18, lived in London for 20 years and now live in Australia — everything is so cross-pollinated. I can't tell you that, say, Belgium has a very particular style of contemporary dance. Everybody's travelling — to be a dancer, you need to be out there."
He's also brought plenty of cross-art form collaborations to the company, working with artists such as Katie Noonan and Sarah Blasko, and fashion designers Toni Maticevski and Dion Lee. In his first new work for 2015, which will be performed alongside Quintett, he'll be using compositions by Bryce Dessner, the guitarist in American indie rock band The National. Katie Noonan will also perform in the return of 2013′s Les Illuminations, and Emergence, which features a soundtrack by Sarah Blasko, will go on an extensive national tour in 2015. Bonachela says these kinds of collaborations are nothing new.
"It's always been a big part of the dance world, even when you look at the recent history of dance — for example, the Ballet Russes commissioning sets from Picasso and Matisse's time there."
Bonachela has enthusiastically embraced varied artists because, he says, it allows SDC to reach audiences that he mightn't be able to otherwise.
"In Australia, there are so many people out there who don't know that they like contemporary dance," he says. "It's not that they don't like it, it's that they haven't seen it."
Bonachela's approach to the company has been largely audience-focussed, and he's managed to expand its reach, from below 30,000 in 2008, up to consistently more than 45,000 over the last three years. Since moving here, he's come to learn what make Australian audiences and Australian society tick.
"When I first arrived, people spoke a lot about how much better things were abroad," he says. "People kept asking me why I'd come here after working in London. There are great things in London and there are shit things in London — of course there's more in London, because there's a lot more people and a lot more demand. But I wanted to tell people to open their eyes because there were really great things happening here. I felt there was a new energy and confidence developing."
Bonachela noticed, when he arrived, that the Sydney arts scene seemed to be in the middle of a generational change — Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton had just been appointed artistic directors at Sydney Theatre Company and Ralph Myers at Belvoir.
The shift in Sydney audiences' perceptions since that time has been huge, according to Bonachela, but some cultural cringe is still lingering.
"Every time I go to see the ACO play, I'm just in awe and brought to my knees," he says. "I come out thinking I want to come back to work the next day and be the best choreographer I can possibly be. That's happening in Australia, but a lot of people aren't confident. I don't know why. They're in the habit of thinking there's very little culturally happening here, but there's so much. I just think people have to get off their arses a bit more."
Bonachela will get to see if the momentum continues to build as he this year extended his contract with SDC until 2019, when the company celebrates its 50th birthday.
The 2015 program wraps up with the return of New Breed, which gives four emerging choreographers the opportunity to have their work performed by the SDC dancers. Bonachela says the program is designed to create pathways for choreographers to get their work commissioned by companies like SDC. He caught his first major break with such an opportunity in London.
"We hope we're developing and finding the choreographers of the future — the me of the future."
Sydney Dance Company in 2015
Season One – Frame of Mind
A double bill featuring the Australian premiere of William Forsythe's Quintett and the world premiere of Rafael Bonachela's Frame of Mind.
Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne in March, April and May.
Special Project – Le Grand Tango
Sydney Dance Company teams up with Sydney Symphony Orchestra for a series of tangos by Piazzolla.
Sydney in April.
National Tour – De Novo
A triple bill featuring Rafael Bonachela's Emergence, Larissa McGowan's Fanatic and Alexander Ekman's Cacti.
Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania in July and August.
Season Two – Triptych
A triple bill of works by Rafael Bonachela – Les Illuminations, Simple Symphony and an as-yet-unnamed world premiere.
Sydney in September and October.
Season Three – New Breed
Works by four emerging Australian choreographers.
Sydney in November.
Sydney Dance Company 2015 Program Packages are now on sale.
Tickets to individual performances will be available from December 1.
Book at www.sydneydancecompany.com/2015