Les Illuminations (Sydney Dance Company)

816436-les-illuminations[1]Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Aug 28 – 31, 2013
Choreographer: Rafael Bonachela
Music: Benjamin Britten
Musicians: Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Vocalist: Katie Noonan
Dancers: Sydney Dance Company

Theatre review
Rafael Bonachela’s latest work with the Sydney Dance Company is set to the music of Benjamin Britten from the 1930s. Bonachela’s immense respect for the music has produced a work that is sensitive to the audience’s aural experience, where the dancers are never allowed to overwhelm or contradict Britten’s essence. It is a successful meeting of creative art forms, but the music is kept paramount.

If beauty is ever a theme in theatre, Les Illuminations embraces it wholeheartedly. Eight dancers perform with a variety of moods and energies, but ultimately all the nuances they bring to the stage dissolve into fleeting moments, for what remains in the aftermath is a sense of sublime beauty. In part 1, Bernhard Knauer embodies a certain lightness and delivers a dream-like quality to the dance. The effortlessness he displays is delightful, and representative of Bonachela’s style, which is chiefly of a sensual nature, rather than giving prominence to technical athleticism. Janessa Dufty impresses as always with her magnetic presence and supreme confidence. Her performance style is characterised by strength and freedom, with a quality that is exceptionally alluring. In part 2, Thomas Bradley’s androgyny is important to the reading of Bonachela’s work, which in this instance, will be remembered for featuring multiple pas de deux sequences. A queer influence gives “partner work” texture, elevating gender dynamics from mere romance to more interesting ideas, and more complex notions of relationships and love.

Katie Noonan’s voice in the classical space is a marvellous revelation. Her singing comes to us with a transportative other-worldliness. It is perfect. Memorable segments of the show involve the dancers engaging us and each other, but with minimal movement. Our eyes and ears are seduced into a state of rapture, with Noonan’s timber ringing as though in dreams of purity and beauty, as though suspended in time.