Emma Grill and Cooper Terry in 'Like a Salmon in the Sahara', PPY2016

‘PPY16 revealed’. Sydney Dance Company

8 December 2016, Carriageworks, Eveleigh (Sydney)

Sydney Dance Company’s initiative, its now annual Pre-Professional Year (the title of the show PPY16 Revealed refers to this year’s venture), is a significant one for the future of the dance industry. And one of the most interesting aspects of the venture for audiences can be found in the comments on the course made by the graduates and printed in the program. Almost all of those who were part of the initiative spoke of their personal growth during the year: ‘A year of intense introspection and self-inquiry’;  ‘This course has been a great platform for me to grow as a person’; ‘The Pre-Professional Year course has thankfully changed my mindset regarding my life and myself’; and, as one smart young person asked, ‘Why was I not exposed to this learning earlier?’ Why indeed?  This ‘dancing for life’ learning may not yet be apparent in the way these dancers perform, but I am sure it will eventually become evident in their work, whatever that may be.

But to the show itself. The technical strength of the dancers was most clearly shown in the closing section, an excerpt from Rafael Bonachela’s 2 One Another, and every dancer responded beautifully. What struck me most was the strength with which the dancers embraced the minutiae of Bonachela’s choreography. Every tiny detail of the choreography was very clear and I was interested to see the assertive, but positive nature of the way they handled those moments when one dancer touched another.

Aidan Daley and Hayley Kelly in Rafael Bonachela's '2 one another', PPY16 revealed. Gez Xavier Mansfield Photography

Aidan Daley and Hayley Kelly in Rafael Bonachela’s ‘2 one another’, PPY16. © Gez Xavier Mansfield Photography

Of the other works, made especially for PPY16, Narelle Benjamin’s Pieces of Cella, a duet for two female dancers, showed some lovely unison movement, some of which I thought recalled yoga poses, but finished with the two dancers almost becoming one as two bodies melded and merged.

Perhaps the standout work for me, though, was Zachary Lopez’s Like a Salmon in the Sahara in which thirteen dancers, dressed in individualistic, all-white outfits, engaged in some fast dancing. I enjoyed Lopez’s ability to group and regroup his dancers, and his broad approach to the use of space—even the running in circles worked nicely. And bouquets to the ‘runner’, the fourteenth dancer who spent the entire time jogging on the spot!

Thomas Bradley’s corporare might have been interesting—if I had been able to see the movement amid the very dark, very gloomy lighting. Pacific from Kristina Chan began nicely with two rows of dancing rising and falling, suggesting the ebb and flow of waves breaking on the shore. But it lost a little of its effect for me as it proceeded, when dancers and sea seemed to become one with each other.

And on second thoughts, perhaps the personal growth of which these emerging dancers spoke in their program notes is already obvious. The variations in body shape and height, and in technical capacity among the dancers were clear, but the focus and determination of each and every one of them was startling.

Michelle Potter, 10 December 2016

Featured image: Emma Grill and Cooper Terry in ‘Like a Salmon in the Sahara’, PPY16 revealed.  © Gez Xavier Mansfield Photography

Emma Grill and Cooper Terry in 'Like a Salmon in the Sahara', PPY2016

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