Interview with Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela, Sydney Dance Company by Evi Hock, creator of ballettloversblog.com
Sydney Dance Company is coming to STEPS DANCE FESTIVAL in Switzerland
When I lived in Sydney I was very lucky to attend some performances of Sydney Dance Company. I loved these very innovative productions that combine contemporary dance, pop culture, fashion, visual and video arts. I will never forget „6 Breaths“, „we unfold“, „Mercury“, „Louder than words“. I can’t wait to see „Interplay“ in Zürich.
Rafael Bonachela. Photo by Ben Symons
Interplay by Sydney Dance Company
„INTERPLAY“ presents a triple bill showcases. 3 Choreographers – Bonachela, Godani and Obarzanek – have each carved their own, unique paths through the world of contemporary dance, pushing at the possibilities of movement with acclaimed, innovative works.
So, it was with great curiosity that I asked Bonachela questions pertaining to the art of choreography, the collaboration with other artists, his dancers and STEPS DANCE FESTIVAL.
In 2009 you took over the Sydney Dance Company. Now your company is one of Australia’s most successful and awarded contemporary dance company with 16 dancers. What do you believe are the major keys to your success?
Sydney Dance Company has long been recognised as one of Australia’s leading cultural institutions. The Company was founded in 1969 and since 1999 has been acknowledged as one of 28 Australian Major Performing Arts Companies, supporting by the federal government.
It was an incredible experience for me to travel to Australia in 2008 to create a work for such an established and prestigious company, and a life-changing opportunity to be offered the position of Artistic Director.
From the beginning, my approach to the role has represented quite a shift for the Company artistically. Over the past seven years since moving to Sydney I have been focused on showcasing the best of contemporary choreography to Australian audiences. I am committed to commissioning and creating new work, to collaboration, and to bringing in external choreographers to work with the Company – including both other Australian choreographers and internationals.
I am lucky to have a team of 16 incredibly talented and committed dancers who are able to embrace and embody different styles and influences with an astounding level of discipline, tenacity and grace. This has been instrumental in us gaining permission to perform some of the key works we have presented in recent years, including William Forsythe’s masterpiece Quintett, for which the Company has been recognised with several dance awards.
I have also worked very closely with the board and management of Sydney Dance Company since my arrival, to expand our reach to new audiences across Australia and internationally. This has included considerably expanding our annual touring activity and introducing a range of education initiatives to nurture the next generation of dancers and dance audiences.
How different is it to lead a company in Australia in comparison to Europe? Are there any big cultural differences?
There are many great things about working in Australia, for example there is an incredible richness of untapped dance talent, both dancers and choreographers, and the culture here is very hardworking. Of course the big difference is that Australia doesn’t have the same dance history, when you compare to Europe. And so, there isn’t the same volume of contemporary dance happening here. That can be a positive too because when Sydney Dance Company goes on national tour we are still visiting places where contemporary dance is very new. It’s an incredible feeling to introduce an audience to an artform with so much power and beauty.
You’ve said in previous interviews that your inspiration comes from other artists and dancers, music, even pop culture and Hollywood. If this is your starting point, how do you then inject your personal ideas into these influences to create productions?
I have previously said that life itself inspires all my work and that is my starting point because in life I read, listen to music, watch film, interact with people and live in the 21st century in an urban environment.
Everything in this media-heavy world touches me. From micro to macro, my emotions are the starting point and from there I move outwards creatively.
My ‘natural’ human and personal instincts play a major role in my creativity; they feed through the entire process from the point of inspiration, through the collaborations at every level, right up to the living moments of the final performance.
A piece of music or a poem can inspire me to want to create a work but after that it’s me, my ideas, my personal instincts and my process that will inform and guide the work to a unique personal place.
With each work I find my way. The approach depends on my concept, where I want to go and who I am working with. I do not have a totally set structure but I would say that experimentation in movement and finding a language are always at the forefront of my thinking and creative process.
Interplay will be shown in Switzerland. Why did you specifically choose this 3 piece production for your upcoming tour in Switzerland?
Sydney Dance Company’s Interplay had its world premiere at Sydney Theatre on March 15, 2014, as part of the Company’s 45th Anniversary celebrations. A representative from Steps saw the program and loved it and approached us to bring the show to their 2016 Festival. They felt this was the perfect fit for their program, with three very different works from three internationally renowned choreographers.
You strike me as a very open and collaborative artist. Have you always found that collaboration is the most effective approach? Has it ever back fired?
I am really inspired by the opportunity to collaborate and am always looking for ways to work together with other artists whom I admire and whose ideas and approach would be a good fit for Sydney Dance Company.
I don’t create my own music, lighting or sets, so there is always some level of collaboration in every work I make. Now that I have been in Sydney for seven years I am building relationships with some frequent collaborators in these areas, which is great. The more I know someone and the more familiar they are with what I like, the more effective the collaboration can be.
First time collaborations always bring with them a new excitement along with an element of risk. Ultimately every aspect of every show that Sydney Dance Company presents is ultimately my responsibility so I have to be really clear with my collaborators about what is expected.
Has it ever backfired? Not really, not completely, but earlier in my career when I wasn’t completely honest with my feedback, the end product wasn’t always all that I had hoped it would be.
How would you describe Sydney Dance Company in 5 words?
About the dancers I would say “Dynamic, masterful, fierce, poetic, inspiring”
Link to Sydney Dance Company http://www.sydneydancecompany.com/
Read more about Rafael Bonachela
Rafael Bonachela was born in Barcelona where he began his early dance training. He moved to London and in 1992 joined the legendary Rambert Dance Company. He remained as a dancer and Associate Choreographer until 2006 at which time he successfully established the Bonachela Dance Company to concentrate on his choreographic career. During his years based in London, he received choreographic commissions from companies around the world as his reputation of creating dynamic and innovative work developed and grew.
In 2008 Rafael Bonachela premiered his first full-length production for the Sydney Dance Company, a commissioned production entitled 360°. He was soon after appointed Artistic Director. His vision for the Company has seen the repertoire grow with the addition of commissioned dance works from Australian and international guest choreographers. The premiere works are often programed alongside Rafael’s own creations, ensuring diversity for audiences and providing much sought after opportunities for the ensemble of dancers to be exposed to the work of some of the most in-demand choreographers.
Rafael Bonachela’s work is recognised internationally and he has not only worked with contemporary dance at the highest level but also with artists from popular culture such as Kylie Minogue and Tina Turner. (Source: artsunit.nsw.edu.au)
All information about Interplay on Website steps.ch
10.4. Fribourg13.4. Lörrach (Germany)
Choreography 2 in D Minor: Rafael Bonachela; Raw Models: Jacopo Godani; L’Chaim!: Gideon Obarzanek | Music 2 in D Minor: Johann Sebastian Bach (Partita No. 2 in D Minor for Solo Violin BWV 1004 and commissioned music by Nick Wales ); Raw Models: 48nord (original music: Ulrich Mueller and Siegfried Roessert); L’Chaim!: Stefan Gregory | Musician 2 in D Minor: Veronique Serret (violin) | Actor L’Chaim!: Gideon Obarzanek | Dancers 2 in D Minor: 16; Raw Models: 7; L’Chaim!: 16 | Duration 140 min. with two intermissions