Wind ruffles the dancers' clothes. As they point or turn to look up, their movements almost echo those of tourists across the square, taking pictures of the façade of St Paul's. Pigeons fly past, stopping on the cathedral steps regardless of the performance.
This outdoor performance was a preview of Rafael Bonachela's new The Land of Yes and the Land of No. Still best known as Kylie Minogue's choreographer, Bonachela was recently appointed director of Sydney Dance Company, while maintaining his own troupe in London. The new work draws on everyday signs and directions: in this performance, it's surrounded by the real everyday.
The complete work won't be seen in Britain until autumn, but this excerpt suits St Paul's. Performed as part of the City of London festival, the work is staged on the steps. The flat landing between flights becomes the main dance space, with a dance floor laid to protect the dancers feet. But they also move up and down the stairs. When the dancers clump together, making unison gestures, the grouping is clearer because they're standing on different levels.
Ezio Bosso's original score is played through speakers. It's full of piercing string notes – which seem more piercing because of the dancers' reactions. A soloist twitches at the first note, clasping her hands to her breastbone.
Her solo is full of contractions and recoils, a movement pulling her off-balance, then pushing her into recovery. Her stretches wind her into knots. When a man joins her, two parallel solos become a duet. As he reaches upwards, his legs buckle under him, but it's a softer style – he sinks gently to the floor.
The other dancers drift down the steps towards them. They start to gesture in unison: moving hands to eye or mouth. These are almost everyday movements, not quite mime, organised into patterns. One man strolls in after the others, joining in once he gets there.
Bonachela's group work is much looser than the taut solo material. The gestures are softer and sketchier – which may be a deliberate contrast, but it looks unfinished. Those blocks of movement have less weight than the other dances. Are they hitting a different tone, or in need of a polish?
British tour opens at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London on 25 Sept. Details from www.bonacheladancecompany.com