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Brisbane dance fans have waited some time to see We Unfold, Rafael Bonachela’s first piece for Sydney Dance Company as artistic director.

Other works from the Spanish-born choreographer have graced our stages recently, including a cracking piece for Danza Contemporanea de Cuba in September. But We Unfold has a special place in SDC history, being Bonachela’s response to learning he had won the top job and would have to move immediately from his base in London.

A vast, undulating score by Ezio Bosso (entitled Oceans) underpins the whole enterprise, providing a clean canvas for Bonachela to work with. Video artist Daniel Askill looks to the music and finds the stars instead, mapping the cosmos in a way that is matched by the bling of his brother Jordan’s sheer costumes.

The spare opening scene of bodies struck in shadow soon breaks into clean, percussive movement; Bonachela effectively using canons to bounce and re-direct the energy across and around the stage. An early solo by Juliette Barton could be centred better, but the movement immediately comes into focus when it is picked up by Charmene Yap, who performs with great speed and sharpness.

One thing that strikes you from the outset is the lightness of the company. Although the booming music helps disguise any heavy breathing, the athleticism is impressive. Most members of the ensemble stand out at one time or another, including former Queensland dancers Adam Blanch (Queensland Ballet) and Emily Amisano (Expressions). At one stage, Blanch launches himself spinning into the air to be unexpectedly caught by another male dancer. But if one performer was bound to capture your attention it would be Chen Wen, who possesses easy elevation and gorgeous extension.

The middle sections move the work into deeper, darker territory. While the mood being conveyed here is clear, the narrative is not always so transparent. The video also shifts in focus, with representative human figures dominating the screen (including one who is consumed by flames). The final sequences return to full ensemble fireworks, and this is where the elements of the work combine best to match the symphony that inspired it.

Marketing materials for dance works often bear little resemblance to what you see on stage, having to be prepared months in advance, often before rehearsals have begun. In this case, the stylish image of three dancers struck with a shaft of light is spot on — revealing Bonachela’s ambitions for the company in one bright, shining moment.

The details: We Unfold appears at QPAC until November 27. Tickets available through QTIX.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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