Sydney Dance Company’s Impermanence

September 8, 2022

A visceral and thrilling exploration of the juxtaposition of beauty and devastation, Rafael Bonachela‘s Impermanence features a commissioned score full of emotional power from Grammy Award-winning composer Bryce Dessner, performed live on stage by the Australian String Quartet.

Presenting a reflective approach as to how easily structures and lives can fall apart, the dancers and creatives minds alike come together to pave the audience a pathway to peace and radiance in the midst of shattering change.

The Australian String Quartet accompanies the dancers on stage and it is clear to the audience that movement choices are deeply inspired by the sound engulfing the space. Costumed in neutral tones amid initially dull lighting, the artists provide an opportunity to relate, as the pedestrian movement of walking sets the work.

A concept of pedestrian movement is repeatedly seen throughout and acts as a tool to ground and restart—again, reflective of day-to-day living. A play on weight transfer and levels reinstate change with sporadic moments linking back to the initial stimulus of unexpected defeat. Indirect eye lines appear more intentional as the physical contact between dancers develops, expressing a change in focus. Motifs of wrapping, tossing, falling and catching are altered throughout—in both size and speed—as the constant push/pull of movement supports one’s internal battle for control of self when we can’t always control what goes on around us.

Every transition throughout the work is seamless as movement intensity builds and falls alongside the altering light and shade of sound. Posing as a constant in a world of chaos, the intricate sounds of the Australian String Quartet are enhanced but never overpowered by the inclusion of percussive claps from the dancers and other aspects of pre-recorded media. Key to the intention of the work is the lighting on stage as it also changes in line with the atmosphere of the space and size of movement. Though simple, a coloured line of light holds meaning of its own as it progressively grows in parallel to the personal understanding and acceptance of internal/external change experienced by the audience. The use of warm light tones provide a sense of hope we—as human-beings—always long for, with flickers of light acting as our reminder that it is okay to experience the emotions that can come with loss in all forms, but that this loss is not a permanent or defining factor in how someone may view themselves.

Concluding this work that has the audience captivated is a stand-out solo phrase that perfectly ties together each aspect of art involved in the production. The light fills the space more than it previously had and thought provoking words of “I need another…..” echo the theatre as the first and only inclusion of vocal sound. This repeated phrase alone forms a beautiful summary of the work and when paired with the precise and layered motifs performed by dancer Liam Green creates a chance for self-reflection and realisation of how everyone walks a different journey in the face of universal adversity. The choreographed breath, directed eyeline, and repetition of gesture bring audience members to tears before the theatre erupts in applause for the work of art that has been viewed. 

Impermanence holds a relatable concept, providing a flawless image to the notion that beauty can always germinate from destruction with a respect to time, individual experience, and a willingness to overcome. 

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