‘I hated this show five years ago – now it’s excitingly different’

Sydney Dance Company
Sydney Opera House
March 15
I hated Antony Hamilton’s Forever and Ever when I first reviewed it in 2018. It dragged, seemed pretentious in that modern dance way, and the soundtrack’s relentless techno thud (which Hamilton says inspired the title) grated.

Rafael Bonachela describes I Am-Ness as ‘a momentary constellation of feelings, thoughts, and sensations’.Credit:Pedro Greig

I was intrigued to revisit it five years and a Helpmann Dance Award later. Excitingly, it’s cheerfully different staged in the more intimate setting of the Opera House Drama Theatre. You can see all the tiny humanising details lost on 2018’s larger stage, from the cheeky stares in Jesse Scales’ prologue solo, to the hand motifs appliqued on the dancers’ jumpsuits. Even the opening caterpillar shuffle, which took a painful eternity on a larger stage, becomes a comically detailed number in a smaller space.

The Shell, A Ghost, The Host and The Lyrebird features remarkable giant silk sculptures.Credit:Pedro Greig

Hamilton says the piece is an “homage” to pop culture and fashion, and the visually arresting aesthetic – a stark white set like a photoshoot, bold block-coloured costumes, strobes, and that unforgiving loop soundtrack – makes you feel like you’ve stumbled into a music video. Hamilton’s background in commercial dance is a strength for this vision, with the choreography intensifying to a pounding, in-your-face rhythmic complexity before the rave-inspired laser-light finale.

The set of Forever and Ever makes you feel like you’ve stumbled into a music video.Credit:Pedro Greig

Forever and Ever is part of Sydney Dance Company’s latest triple bill, Ascent. The first piece is I Am-ness, by artistic director Rafael Bonachela. Created for four dancers, Bonachela describes it as “a momentary constellation of feelings, thoughts, and sensations”. The dancers break apart then come together in Bonachela’s signature waves of sinuous movement, their relationships always in flux.

An outstretched hand is pushed aside rather than grasped, heads are tilted in questioning double-takes, and a dancer collapses only to be caught and have her feet walked across another’s ribs. This poignant choreography is housed in a dark blue set moodily filled with mist and to a keening score for string ensemble – you can practically hear the violins sighing with unfulfilled yearning.

The second piece is Marina Mascarell’s The Shell, A Ghost, The Host and The Lyrebird. It features remarkable giant silk sculptures – rigged up and fluttering like boat sails, then suspended like tents and then collapsed in giant mossy heaps. The dancers cleverly weave between them, pulling and pushing on the suspension ropes. This is Mascarell’s first Australian production, and her choreography is a novel treat: organic, inventive, and teetering on that whimsical border between humanoid, animal, and inert. A must-watch for the curious.

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