Dance: momenta, Roslyn Packer Theatre

Immense athleticism in the body's exploration of time and space.
momenta. Around a dozen dancers on a dark stage wear tight leotards, and tights in muted tones of beige or grey. Their bodies are turned to the back but their heads look back towards the camera with their left hand touching their cheek as if showing their faces to the light.

momenta is the latest full-length work by Sydney Dance Company and its artistic director Rafael Bonachela. What is brought to life on the stage of Sydney’s Roslyn Packer Theatre is a completely mystical, complex and deeply impressive achievement. Upon leaving the theatre, I even heard some audience members remarking that they felt they had a workout just by watching the immense athleticism of the company.

Bonachela’s admittedly thin thematic concern is an exploration of time and space (inherently the two elements of dance external to the human body) and how human emotional connections are created and ruptured by time. Sure, I suppose one could say that about any dance piece and get away with it, but momenta is clearly not intended as an intellectual exercise, rather as an experience of the body itself.

Bonachela’s signature sharp and energetic style is showcased throughout the piece, where movements layer and move within and through each other, where each dancer (or combination of dancers) brings together a unique moment or feeling. The 17 dancers of momenta are all at the top of their game, all working together as an ensemble, yet never losing their singular individuality.

The lighting by Damien Cooper is spectacular and creative, featuring 19 lights rigged onto a three-metre crane that pivots and moves to create silhouettes, shadows, washes and unimaginable angles. It presents an almost otherworldly quality. In the show’s program notes, Cooper reveals the design was inspired by his appreciation for the science-fiction novels he read as a young child.

The original music by Nick Wales is often ambient, losing the rhythmic details one would usually associate with dance performances. Instruments used to create this minimal soundscape include viola, bass drums, accordion, string orchestra, piano, wooden percussion, chimes, voice, and a few synths and drum machines. The resultant piece of music is something that crackles with passion and beats with life and yet is unafraid to leave us in the dark texture of space.

Read: Musical review: Ride the Cyclone, Hayes Theatre

Fans of contemporary dance will no doubt appreciate and enjoy Sydney Dance Company’s momenta, but I doubt the work will convert the unconvinced.

Sydney Dance Company

Roslyn Packer Theatre
Choreography: Rafael Bonachela
Music: Original Score by Nick Wales featuring ‘Distant Light’ by Pēteris Vasks
Set and Costume Design: Elizabeth Gadsby

Associate Costume Design: Emma White
Lighting: Damien Cooper

momenta will be performed until 8 June 2024.

Matthew Collins is a writer, director, and occasional actor whose works extends through literature, theatre, film, politics, gallery work, and critical writings. He is currently studying a Master of Curating and Cultural Leadership at UNSW. You can find him on Instagram @thematthewcollins