‘Untamed’ and the works of Sydney Dance Company


Okay. Been a while I know but I have a bit to say in this post. Over the past 4 months, during my dance dry spell and complete neglect of writing, I’ve managed to bottle up a lot of post-dance frustration which exploded after finally seeing Untamed performed by Sydney Dance Company.  The show consisted of two works, the first half choreographed by Gabrielle Nankivell – Wildebeest – which is a revisited work created in 2014 for SDC’s NewBreed, and the second half of the show featured Rafael Bonachela’s (Artistic Director of SDC) –Anima. To be honest, I can’t really comment on the show as a whole, so here is an interpretation of both performances singularly.

Wildebeest began in darkness with an eerie dialogue. We were thrown into the imaginative role, and the atmospheric sounds in accordance to the whispery voice made me envisage being in a mythical realm before human interference. I was a bit uncomfortable as it felt like the opening of Twilight, but I began to enjoy the sounds of circling storms surrounding me. Amongst the darkness appeared this incredible dancer who can isolate and contort like no tomorrow, creating this tentacly, insect-like, vulnerable predator. The performance progressed into a group of ‘beasts’ interacting in fast-paced aggressive leaps and lifts. I really enjoyed the transformation into the second half as all of the dancers made a shift to mechanical and organised movement, working simultaneously with the music. They appeared as the fast shifting cogs in clockwork – structurally triggering another cog to move. It was really incredible to watch as a whole and looked futuristic. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the bass drops. The music, composed by Luke Smiles, really took on part of the narrative and focused on embellishing the intention of the work.  It was exciting to really see and hear the contrast from the bestial to the skrillex-like performance. Despite the evident contrast, I think that Nankivell’s choreography showed the similarities between both forms, in that they are so complex that they have a mind of their own, are uncontrollable and are, inevitably, ‘untamed’. I really enjoyed it. Kudos.

Anima, Beautiful. Stunning. Mesmerising. I am always impressed by the phenomenal strength of the dancers in SDC and inspired by the beauty of their ability and control. I can’t leave a choreography of his without wanting to dance. In saying that however, Anima would have been my fourth Bonechela choreography that I’ve seen and I can’t really differentiate the four – apart from the change of staging/costume. It’s as though he follows a cookie cutter strategy, and I was crossing my fingers and toes that it wouldn’t consist of music that was heavily strings orientated, or had four decipherable sections in the performance (1. the small, structured group, 2. the large full ensemble, 3. the sentimental duo and 4. the full company performing in four lines of synchronous and large movement). But alas, that’s exactly what he laid on the table. I understand that these performances are to be toured around the world and are to leave a beautiful, impressive print on the audience’s mind, but Sydney Dance Company is NSW’s leading contemporary dance company. And coming from a dancing background, where I’m looking for innovative work that will challenge pre-existing knowledge, I’m a little underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, the choreography is beautiful and well mapped out into complex sequences, but I think of it as neoclassical contemporary, and as such it keeps Sydney contemporary dance in non-explored territory – confined in the conventional, and stuck in the rut of the past.


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