Sydney Dance Company, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London


Making its first London visit in more than twenty years, Sydney Dance Company was also drawing on more recent British connections.

 Since 2009, the company has been directed by Rafael Bonachela, who launched his choreographic career with Britain’s Rambert Dance Company. His new company look confident and committed, with fluent dancing and some strong personalities.

For this tour, they danced two recent works by Bonachela, both created with his regular composer, Ezio Bosso. 6 Breaths was written for six cellos and a piano, with a breathing, sobbing to-and-fro in the cello writing. Each movement is built around a different kind of breathing – sometimes literal, as in the sobbing “Crying Breath”, sometimes metaphorical, as in “Under One’s Breath”. 

The work begins and ends with film sequences by Tim Richardson. Fragments fly together, grouping into a sculpture of a man – a newly created image, alongside the idea of new life. When the dancers appear, they wear short dark tunics by Josh Goot, with a pale dappled pattern that echoes the film fragments.

Bonachela sets a different tone for the six movements, from brisk ensembles to more intimate duets. The strongest sequence is a male duet for “Crying Breath”. One soloist puts his hands to his left side, pulling them apart and pushing them together. It’s a breathing movement, a heartbeat, but the repeated squeeze also suggests heartbreak. His duet with a second man is full of weighted, curling steps, with embraces suggesting comfort.  B

onachela comes back to gesture, pointing fingers and swoops of the hand. There’s a sense of communication, of people explaining themselves, without quite becoming concrete mime. A woman dances a syncopated solo, hitching up a shoulder or thrusting a hip or elbow, fast and spiky. She leads the whole company in faster steps, quick and bouncy.

LANDforms, which celebrates the Australian landscape, is a longer and much weaker work. The dancers wind around each other in duets or clump together in groups. Bonachela has designed his own costumes for this work, skimpy layers of soft fabric in earth colours.

In the most distinctive episode, Bonachela sets up three duets – male/male, male/female, female/female – the different pairings giving changing weight to similar partnering. The rest of the work is an unfocused ramble. Neither Bosso nor Bonachela seem to know when to stop. Mark Dyson lights up different areas of the stage; the dancers change costumes. Eventually, rain patters down onto the stage, splashing the dancers.