A new season is upon us. And while the change in climate, (however inconsistent the sunshine might be), certainly feels long overdue – the real shift is in energy. There's an unbound urgency that is screaming at us to create, love and experience unapologetically, and it's about time we answer it. In fact, that's exactly what Sydney Dance Company plans to do with its latest program, RESOUND; which not only presents a loaded bill of masterclass talent, but a long-overdue collaboration between artistic director Rafael Bonachela and designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales of Romance Was Born.
The pair have joined forces on Bonachela's latest work, titled, Summer – its world premiere debuting on October 28 and bringing with it a serenading lightness and hypnotic summer haze. Plunkett and Sales, tasked with bringing this quintessential energy to life through the work's costuming, offer an enriching layer of creativity to the already intimate, intricate piece. Emphasised by Kate Moore's evocative score, Cicadidae, it's a true summer romance between three creatives at the top of their game.
A reminder that life is best lived live, in living colour, Summer is a celebration of the heated, electric energy we've all been waiting for. Here, we speak to Bonachela and Plunkett about the collaboration, the body as both form and function, and how Summer fits into the RESOUND puzzle.
Congratulations to you both on such an exciting partnership and what a truly joyful way to send off the year. You’ve mentioned before that a collaboration has been long-overdue. What is it that you find inspiring about each other’s art form and what is it that unites you creatively?
R: When I think about contemporary dance, and what we do here at Sydney Dance Company, we deal with now – we create and react to what is current and relevant. Being a contemporary dance company, it's important that we reflect our times, and I feel the same way about fashion. I always feel like fashion speaks to the now – the mood of the people. Fashion designers are always pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation, and that's something that it's very much what I live and breathe in my world in dance. That's something that I always find very exciting about collaborating with fashion designers, and bringing them into my world.
Secondary to that, for both dance and fashion, the body is the centrepiece; we are both working with these incredible, inspiring movers and we create off and for that. Which is why I was so excited to collaborate with Anna and Luke on this.
A: When we create anything, we always talk about energy – how it makes someone feel –and we hope when we put something out into the world, that we receive an emotional response in that way. We've never worked with a dance company before, but there's already an energy and spirit within Sydney Dance Company, and together, we can create another layer or heightened sense of emotion and beauty through form and shape.
Also, our shared love of colour. It's super enriching and fulfilling for me and Luke to see our pieces being worn in a completely emotive, skilful and beautiful way that is different from how we normally present our work. The three dancers who are wearing our creations, they're so talented and in-tune with themselves and each other – they represent the innate spirit we're trying to speak to with our clothing.
Anna – when Rafael came to you with this brief, what was your initial vision? And how did the creative process begin and evolve from here?
A: Well, in the very beginning, Raf came to us and shared the music and why it resonated with him, and then we went away and started building this vision out. It was really remarkable timing though, because these discussions coincided with our collaboration with artist Ken Done, which we showed earlier this year at AAFW. His spirit and inspiration is very much rooted in Australian summer, the landscape and lifestyle; and it felt like the perfect opportunity to unite his quintessentially summer prints with Raf's inspiration.
We had all these big ideas about silhouettes in the beginning without properly understanding the type of movement. From seeing the very first rehearsal, we were able to understand how integrated the movements were – and Raf, Luke and I were all united on this idea of unitards, which is what we were working on for our resort collection anyway. So, it was very serendipitous.
R: We spoke earlier about this layering of art forms – if dance and fashion wasn't enough already, Ken's art is like the final layer of artistry. There are a lot of conversations that happen throughout a process like this, but at the end of the day, you have to pick what feels right for the work. And I remember going to the show and seeing the unitards and having that emotional connection that Anna mentioned. When I saw the richness of the colours and the patterns, I knew in my head, "that is perfect", but I also wanted to give Anna and Luke the chance to go on their own journey with the creation of the costumes.
Rafael, I wanted to touch back on the inspiration behind Summer. Why did now feel like the right time to share this energy with the world?
R: Not everyone is aware of this, but I actually have to decide on the works I produce a year in advance. Last year, when I was creating with the company, there was an extended period of time where we could be in the same room, but weren't able to physically touch. I knew in that moment, that what I was going to create a year later was going to be the antithesis of that. A feeling of embracing in a way that we hadn't. Then, I came across the score which had this rhythmic sound of a cicada – the quintessential sound of summer – and it inspired me create a story that would be restorative, that would radiate energy, light, spirit, and a feeling of unity. A gentle urgency to live again and feel joy with one another is something that I felt we were all craving; and I hope that this new season of joy, exploration and touch is a summer that lasts a lifetime.
Kate Moore’s score is a factor that really guided this concept and process. How do you know when a piece of music is ‘the one’?
R: When I hear a piece of music, it has to speak to me in some way. And the wonderful thing about music is that emotional connection can be different every time. Sometimes, but not all the time, I can visualise the body and how it will move to certain pieces of music – I see movement, I see patterns. And then once that connection is established, I listen to it on repeat, relentlessly. Kate's score, Cicadidae, has this really hypnotising energy to it, and it took me a while do decide whether I could match that energy with movement. It was a slightly different process for me this time because the music was complete – it already existed – whereas, often, the music I use is composed as I'm choreography. It can be quite overwhelming, but I decided I was going to take the dancers on the journey with me and Luke and Anna helped to complete it all.
You’ve chosen to work with three dancers for this piece Rafael and watching you work collaboratively with them was truly magical. What are the main differences between working with select artists versus the entire company? And why did this approach feel right for Summer?
R: The process of creation that I go through – the steps, vocabulary and language of work – isn't so different whether I have 3o or three dancers. What does change is the physical and mental intensity of just the four of you being in constant creation with each other. There's a dialogue that is constantly engaged between us, and I specifically chose these three dancers because they each have different qualities and ways of moving; which helps keep each moment feeling fresh and unique. There was also this desire for intimacy through movement that I felt I could do best with a much smaller group, and as you will see, the three of them share this really intuitive connection and trust when they perform the piece. It's a real summer romance!
More broadly, RESOUND is a program that is loaded with extraordinary talent. What is it that ties these three pieces together and why did you choose this pairing for RESOUND?
R: I'm so incredibly excited about all of the artists and all of the collaborators involved in the evening itself. I'm very proud to say we have assembled like a superstar program with collaborators and creatives who are all at the top of their game. But what has really brought all these pieces together was the journey of music, which is why we've called the program RESOUND. There is diversity and variety but a celebration of sound is the link throughout the evening. We have Stephanie Lake's work The Universe is Here which has a commissioned score by Robin Fox, who is one of Australia's most prominent electronic composers, which is being accompanied by a live harpist, Emily Granger. Then, there's Ocho, which is a piece I first debuted in 2017, which features a driving score by Nick Wales, with the haunting vocals of Aboriginal artist Rrawun Maymuru. And of course, Kate's score for Summer.
There will be fashion, there will be sound, there will be art and of course dance. It is so rewarding to bring all these crafts together.
You can experience Sydney Dance Company perform RESOUND at the Roslyn Packer Theatre Walsh Bay, from 28 October- 5 November 2022. For more information and to purchase tickets, head to sydneydancecompany.com.