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Review: Wildebeest and Frame of Mind


Sydney Dance Company presents a spellbinding evening of dance with Gabrielle Nankivell’s dramatic Wildebeest and Rafael Bonachela’s beautifully elegant Frame of Mind, writes Greg Elliott.

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Nankivell’s Wildebeest begins with a solo male, dressed in a brown tunic and brown shorts: the texture appears to be leather, but the effect is certainly animal.

In the smoke-filled stage, highlighted through shafts of light, we could be observing any animal playfully enjoying the morning mist. Soon he is joined by a female and they explore each other and their environment: flashes of lightning and sounds of thunder create a sense of danger and the wild.

The couple become a group and they continue with the theme of the individual and the herd as they run, leap and play, freely and with purpose.

Luke Smiles’ impressive soundscape takes a few turns and the feeling of the natural environment transforms, as does the group, into a more mechanical existence: there are the sounds of clocks ticking, cogs whirring and machines chugging that inspire total synchronicity from the company and provide glimpses of an evolved world.

Wildebeest has engaging solo performances, compelling duets and ensemble moments that are mesmerising and breathtaking.

Benjamin Cisterne’s lighting highlights the flesh of the animal, captures the terror of the wild and snapshots moments in time that stun the audience. Strobe lighting accentuates the sensuality of a couple exploring their physical relationship: the dancers move athletically, appearing and disappearing, the lights catching brightly toned arms and legs, sometimes in shadow or silhouette and briefly still like a beast in a headlight.

Regardless of the mechanisation of the world, the individual survives and the call of the wild, where we began, and the need to relate with the earth, returns. Nankivell’s Wildebeest is spellbinding, riveting dance performed by an astoundingly accomplished dance company.

Rafael Bonachela’s Frame of Mind begins with the ensemble in a frenzy of activity inspired by Aheym for String Quartet, Little Blue Something and Tenebre, composed by Bryce Dessner and played by the Kronos Quartet.

Dressed in an assortment of black tank tops, shirts, shorts, bras and briefs, the Sydney Dance Company members present striking images of the human body. Against a backdrop of sumptuous red-velvet curtains Frame of Mind is an exercise in elegance and beauty.

Amid the mayhem of a crowd, individuals look to connect, and Bonachela’s choreography allows for soloists to shine and duos to interact. Whether as individual members or as a company, the ensemble create astonishing images and memorable moments.

Frame of Mind explores our need as humans to be with others, to feel close, to understand and to share our lives. This is a dance to sit back and enjoy, while appreciating the skill of the dancers and the insight of the choreographer.

Cisterne’s lighting creates outstanding special effects, the music of the Kronos Quartet is magnificent and the dancing world-class.

Bonachela suggests that our frame of mind will alter our perceptions and appreciation of a dance work, and there is no doubt that after experiencing Wildebeest and Frame of Mind you will leave with a greater appreciation of both the world of dance and the world in which we live.

Sydney Dance Company is presenting its Wildebeest / Frame of Mind double bill at Her Majesty’s Theatre until August 19.

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