We are not at your usual end-of-year concert. We are at Carriageworks, Sydney’s coolest performance space to witness graduating students of Sydney Dance Company’s pre-professional year in “Revealed.” An initiative of SDC, PPY is a platform for ballet and contemporary dance students to take the next step, preparing themselves for a career in dance or choreography.
SDC’s PPY is the brainchild of company artistic director Rafael Bonachela. Launched in 2014, it gives highly trained students aged between 18 and 24 the opportunity to bridge the gap between dance school and company. Bonachela describes the programme as producing “the next generation of contemporary dance artists in Australia.”
The full house is greeted by a huge blank canvas; dim lights fill the theatre. It is evocative of a SDC performance, in fact there is a sense this is no ordinary student performance. A heartfelt and eloquently delivered “Welcome to Country” given by pre-professional dancer Keia McGrady cements this suspicion.
The night starts with “Akimbo,” choreographed by SDC dancer Cass Mortimer Eipper. An unusual piece which explores the dynamics of oppression, “Akimbo” doesn’t ever quite take flight. However, it sets the scene for the night: these dancers are as good as any professional. I had half expected the night to be solo after solo, akin to an audition. But witnessing the students perform together, you can envisage these dancers filling company ranks.
“Akimbo” was followed by a short film by Sue Healey, Narrabeen. The full cohort of dancers perform on the shores of Sydney’s Narrabeen beach, and it’s a wonderful interlude. The highlight of the first half however was “Not A Party Too Soon,” performed by seven dancers. A quirky, fun piece by Ashley Wright, “Not A Party Too Soon” showcased some of the year’s best dancers: on opening night, Nicholas Caldwell, Eugenie English, Jacinta Janik and Taite Williams all demonstrated technical prowess and personality.
“Viral, ” choreographed by Victoria Chiu, was an engaging and interesting piece which explored responses to social media. It was followed by the highlight, for me, of the night, Rafael Bonachela’s “Scattered Rhymes.” The piece premiered in 2014 as part of the “Louder Than Words.” The pre-professional students performed the piece with eloquence, strength and fluidity to rival the company dancers. Noteworthy dancers Brielle De Thomasis and Charlotte Hoppe-Smith performed the opening duet, and are ones to watch.
Bonachela has said that “creating an environment that allows dancers to develop an understanding of their own individuality and creative expression within the wider community is intrinsic to the education outcomes of Sydney Dance Company.” And more— by offering students the chance to train in a company-like environment with access to world-class choreographers, SDC is laying the foundation for the next wave of Australian dance talent. It is an exciting initiative, and as a dance critic, these are names that I’ll now watch with interest.