Rafael Bonachela’s double bill for Sydney Dance Company comes close to brilliance – intermittently. The opener, 6 Breaths, is the stronger work. Its framing image is a video in which a snowstorm of animated flecks coalesce into the shape of a classical-style sculpture of a human couple – a hollow skin that later disperses back into leaf-like flurries. That wintry beauty, that transience and that kernel of melancholy pervade the piece.
The dance begins with foreshadows – glimpses of action yet to come – and ends with a reprise; in between, it takes its cue from Ezio Bosso’s plangent score for piano and strings, which typically builds up sparse motifs up into a swell, crescendo or acceleration before subsiding again. A lightly struck chord flickers through a woman’s shoulder, and as the notes hit harder and faster her limbs splay and slip as if her body were right under the piano keys. To a bowing cello, one man pulls his ribs apart and together again, as if forcing his heart open and shut. Best of all are the ensemble sections: simple lineups echo open octaves, repeated phrases pile up like an insistent tremolo, and Bonachela can set his dancers riding the music’s swell and sweep as exhilaratingly as if they were surfing breakers. Though lacking in gravitas, the strong and supple dancers look exceptionally good in Bonachela’s hyperarticulate, expansive style.
The work’s weaknesses are more obvious in LANDforms, which feels almost like a continuation of 6 Breaths, with music of the same timbre (also by Bosso), the same muted lighting, tunic-length costumes for all. Bosso’s score again keeps building and fading, and Bonachela keeps filling and clearing the stage. Bonachela’s dense, whirling choreography is inventive as ever and the synergy between choreography and music can still sweep us along, but the piece is overextended, the parts better than the whole.