Review: Sydney Dance Company at their masterful best with Frame of Mind and Wildebeest double bill

The Sydney Dance Company are currently touring Australia with double performance of two individual but complementary pieces; Wildebeest with choreography by Gabrielle Nankivell and Frame of Mind by Rafael Bonachela. I caught the production last week as it arrived in Adelaide.

In the opening scene of Wildebeest,  a lone figure slowly unravels and expands in a smoky stage, lit from above with a single spotlight. He is dressed in loose earthen coloured garb and twists and turns to guttural base sounds. It is as if we are transported back to the dawn of time. Soon, a female figure soon joins and the ebb and flow of life begins as the dance becomes more venal.

Gradually the stage is filled with similarly clad figures, entwining and moving en masse yet each with individual personalities. The Wildebeest is strong and the dancers evoke this energy and passion with the help of emotional music by Luke Smiles and creative lighting from Benjamin Cisterne.

The theme of time and place is palpable, the scenes shift and change as the dancers take on different forms and shapes; the mechanical dissonance of the twentieth century is powerfully presented. The sense of pattern and repetition is strong; at one moment the company are moving as a flock of birds, then one will break away and suddenly the focus is on the individual.

Wildebeest is a delight for the senses with a satisfying mix of group energy and individual moments.

After a brief interval, Frame of Mind begins and is an ode to our emotional lives. Choreographer Rafael Bonacheta describes his piece as the experience of wanting to be in two places at once. He achieves this with a clever interplay between the dancers with a duality of movement.

The dancers are clad in loose black clothing against a backdrop of rich red curtains. The lighting by Benjamin Cisterne is once again superb, with shadowy figures dancing larger than life highlighting the feeling of otherworldliness.

There are parallels between the two pieces in that individual dancers are contrasted to when the stage is filled with the whole company and the effect is mesmerising. Like watching a stormy sea, as one makes out a fragment, attention is immediately drawn elsewhere. The sum is greater than the individual parts, yet it never feels overwhelming. There is control and restraint that allows the piece to breathe.

Frame of Mind is a brilliant piece of dance theatre with powerful and controlled performances by the dancers with equally impressive sound and lighting. The two pieces worked together beautifully and left a feeling of contentment and drama in equal measure.

This production next travels to Alice Springs (23rd August) and Darwin (26th August). Read more about the tour HERE

The reviewer attended the performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide on 17th August. Photo by Peter Greig.