Often, during the Sydney Dance Company’s “2 One Another” at Mandeville Auditorium on Saturday, I wished I could be seeing the piece in rehearsal. I wanted to focus on the movement, free from the sometimes bombastic music and over-bright, hyperactive lighting from what was apparently a massive bank of LED’s at the back of the stage, aimed at the audience.
Sensory overload may be just what artistic director/choreographer Rafael Bonachela had in mind. The hour-long “2 One Another” is described in the ArtPower! program as a “fusion of dance, language, sound and light … a high-octane shot across the bows of contemporary dance.” So maybe the times when the lighting and music got so assaultive that I couldn’t focus on the dancers represented the piece at its most realized. (The fourth element of the piece, poetry by Samuel Webster, was almost entirely drowned out.)
For me, the best moments in “2 One Another” occurred when the elements were more in balance. And those moments were magical – for instance, when a tall man and tiny woman partnered to what sounded like Italian Renaissance vocal music in Nick Wales’ score. With supple spines and luxurious extensions, they made me think how marvelous the human body is, what beautiful creatures we are.
In another lovely bit, the lighting (by Benjamin Cisterne) became a shimmering Milky Way as groups of four or five dancers took turns doing spiraling, swimming movements or standing in formation, watching, and shifting organically, with no distinct start or stop, from being mover to watcher to mover again.
The dance throughout beguiled. The Sydney dancers are fluid, their elbows in particular as pliant as ribbons and movement impulses squeezing through their bodies like toothpaste in a tube. And Bonachela’s composition is delicious. In quick pivots and changes in direction, the sixteen dancers group and regroup like clouds.
Then there was the time when the sound got so big it vibrated in my chest, and the lights flashed strobe-like, and I thought there has to be a special place in the afterlife for designers who direct bright lights at audiences. It worked, I guess, as spectacle; many people leaped to their feet for a standing ovation. But spectacle in dance has already been done, brilliantly, by Pina Bausch. I wish I’d seen more of Bonachela’s particular gift for moving bodies in space.