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Let there be Light

For the first time in a year, the Sydney Dance Company is back home in Sydney. After a long hiatus touring the world—a post Covid catch-up tour if you will—the company has arrived in Walsh Bay to present their newest work, the world premiere of “momenta.” 

Performance

Sydney Dance Company: “momenta”

Place

Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney, Australia, May 28, 2024

Words

Claudia Lawson

Sydney Dance Company in “momenta” by Rafael Bonachela. Photograph by Pedro Greig

Created by artistic director Rafael Bonachela, “momenta” is a one-act, 75-minute, whirlwind of power, grace, and physicality. As Bonachela describes it, “momenta” is the plural of momentum, and so with it, “momenta implies a series of momentums.”And indeed the work lives up to its name. The stage opens with a bare floor, dimly lit. Stage left hangs a huge basket of spotlights burning bright, while the far corners of the stage remain dark. As the work begins, Nick Wales’s divine score starts to ring out across the theatre. Orchestral violins shatter the darkness, and the dancers begin to appear. Androgynous, in flesh-toned outfits, the dancers begin to move with strength and grace, robotic arm movements key in the opening scenes, every muscle illuminated by the shadows of Damien Cooper's clever lighting design. And so the “momenta” begins.

“momenta” has no defined narrative, but the score slowly builds, and with it, the dancers weave their magic. In true Bonachela style, the choreography is mesmerising. Limbs appear like ribbons in the wind, weaving between each other, no apparent start or end to any movement—it seems impossibly difficult to learn or re-create. As the work progresses different combinations of solos, duos and trios enter and exit the stage. Within the choreography, there are clever lifts and falls, as dancers throw and catch each, millimetres from the floor. It is ethereal yet powerful all at once.

Sydney Dance Company in “momenta” by Rafael Bonachela. Photograph by Pedro Greig

As the work escalates, the lighting continues to create a central focus. The floor appears like a body of still water, mirroring the dancers’ movements from the ground up. From here the cast of 17 dancers move and weave on and off the stage, and while it is exciting to watch, it is possibly one duo or trio too long. Two pas de deux, the first danced by Emily Seymour and Luke Haywood, and the second by Naiara de Matos and Piran Scott, were the highlight. Both were delivered with such finesse, and there were audible gasps from the audience. 


With “momenta” comes a new look for the company. Recent years have seen a real changing of the guard at SDC, as retirement and parenthood beckoned many of Bonachela's long-time muses and stalwarts. But with change comes renewed energy, and this was clear on opening night. Talent, passion and grit oozed from the stage. While synchronicity suffered in some moments, this will of course come as the collective muscle memory develops. That said, experience produced the standouts on opening night, with Chloe Young and Emily Seymour both flawless and wondrous, and Timmy Blakenship one to watch.

Sydney Dance Company in “momenta” by Rafael Bonachela. Photograph by Pedro Greig

Bonachela has once again delivered outstanding contemporary dance. In “momenta,” we have a choreographic work that pushes boundaries, delivered by a company brimming with talent.

“momenta” performs in Sydney for two weeks, with the final show on 8 June 2024, before heading to Melbourne in October. 

To purchase tickets, head to www.sydneydancecompany.com

Claudia Lawson


Claudia Lawson is a dance critic based in Sydney, Australia, writing regularly for ABC Radio National, ABC Arts, and Fjord Review. After graduating with degrees in Law and Forensic Science, Claudia worked as a media lawyer for the ABC, FOXTEL and the BBC in London, where she also co-founded Street Sessions dance company. Returning to Sydney, Claudia studied medicine and now works as a doctor. She is the host of the award-winning Talking Pointes Podcast.

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