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Sydney Dance Company’s ab [intra] connects tenderness with turmoil

Sydney Dance Company’s ab [intra] connects tenderness with turmoil

Are we relying on our primal instincts enough? Are we wholeheartedly embracing the art of loving making? Are we connecting with other humans on a basic level?

16 cast members of Sydney Dance Company unite to perform a new full-length work by artistic director Rafael Bonachela. It has been five years since his last original full-length work, and audiences eagerly await to see what he produces this time around.


The show begins with a single cello string on repeat. The rigid black curtain with LED lights on its base rises up to the sky in heavenly fashion. Dancers stand motionless in the haze until they feel the impulse to move.

A challenge poses itself already because there is no interval. Bonachela has to work hard to keep audiences captivated for a whole 70 minutes. He does this fairly well. I catch myself staring at the dancers in some sort of trance at times, not blinking. The utter fluidity of movement between different contemporary pas de deux never stops to take a breath; it keeps on swinging in all sorts of directions. It is this kind of entanglement between floor work and bodily lifting Bonachela relishes in.

The words ab [intra], means ‘from within’ in Latin, which is ‘an exploration of our primal instincts, our impulses, and our visceral responses,’ says choreographer Rafael Bonachela.

From tenderness to turmoil, ab [intra] is a journey of intense human existence that will command your attention. And, it does.

Janessa Dufty and Izzac Carroll. Photo by Pedro Greig.

This journey of the human existence cannot live without the unforgiving physical element, which shows the dancers’ athleticism and faultless technique against the lush fuse of cello concerto with ambient electronica.


The first extensive male-female pas de deux is an exploration of gentle but steamy passion between two bodies. The dancers are touching each other at all times with some kind of body part, creating a sense of pure enveloping, like a flower growing its petals. As we watch this relationship blossom, the ensemble dances around them lonesomely, perhaps experiencing their own sense of turmoil—until the pas de deux ends on a somewhat sour note, and then the ensemble unifies to dance as one.

Charmene Yap and Davide Di Giovanni. Photo by Pedro Greig.

Repetition of movement crops up consistently, which must have a purpose if Bonachela has something to do with it.

It possibly represents the consistency with which we live our lives, day in and day out, toying with same synthetic themes. Are we learning from our human experience or are we looping them?

ab [intra] is ultimately a bodily experience of human connection shown through admiral athleticism and raw emotion. Bonachela should be credited for his ability to create such poetic geometry on stage.

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