Frame of Mind

Two premieres in a reflective double bill full of superb dancing.
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Rafael Bonachela’s Frame of Mind. Photo: Peter Greig

Under the umbrella title ‘Frame of Mind’ the latest production by Sydney Dance Company treats us to an Australian premiere of William Forsythe’s Quintett and a world premiere of Rafael Bonachela’s Frame of Mind. Both works come from a place of contemplation, of changing circumstances and heartfelt emotion, and reflect those moments in time that seem to shift everything. 

Forsythe’s Quintett is a final ‘love letter’ to his wife, dancer Tracy-Kai Maier. It was created in 1993 and for Sydney Dance Company, one of only seven companies world wide licensed to perform it , it has been staged by Ana Catalina Roman Horcajo and Thomas McManus.

It is abstract, tender, full of Forsythe’s demanding choreography. As the title indicates, it is performed by five dancers: three men two women. The set is minimal with just an old fashioned light box machine and a mirror.

While touched by death the complex duets are tender and essentially celebrate life. Their moods are sometimes yearning, confused, playful, pushing, and, above all, equal in friendship. Each of the dancers feature in short solos and there are some astonishingly breathtaking duets and trios. There is also use of repetition, not just of the music but in short snippets of phrases of choreography.

The music (Gavin Bryars repetitive loop 1971 recording of a homeless man in London singing Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet) can at first be irritating, but eventually leads to a trancelike, meditative state. The bond between the dancers is obvious. Three of the five dancers especially stood out – tall Sam Young-Wright in black in his amazing solos, dark, petite and elfin Jesse Scales in a beautiful short blue dress and Chloe Leong in a long sleeved yellow outfit. A most powerful and hypnotic work mixing quirky detail with the jagged.

Bonachela’s Frame of Mind is an eerie, haunting abstract mood piece. The set – peeling painted walls and a window , as devised by Ralph Myers of Belvoir – is sort of a dreamlike room of melancholy and memory, where time is in constant flux and the inhabitants seek to escape but can’t. Bryce Dessner’s striking score was written as a musical evocation of home and flight and is performed by the Kronos Quartet.

Benjamin Cisterne’s glorious atmospheric lighting adds to this mood. Much is made of the use of shadows and silhouettes. The work opens with the dancers like sculptural figures in an Antony Gormley landscape. Bonachela’s choreography is also extremely demanding, acrobatic yet ballet based.

Bonachela is masterly in his use of masses of group movement for the ensemble, yet simultaneously everyone appears to be doing their own thing. Floorwork, rolls and a deep Graham plie are also included in this work. Cass Mortimer Eipper brings the work to a gripping conclusion, arm across his eyes, exhausted .

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Frame of Mind

Sydney Dance Company, Sydney Theatre

6 – 21 March

Lynne Lancaster
About the Author
Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.