SYDNEY – Spanish choreographer Rafael Bonachela this year is celebrating his 10th anniversary since becoming the artistic director of the Sydney Dance Company, the most renowned of its kind in Australia, which is also celebrating its 50th anniversary.
The 47-year-old dancer from Spain’s northeastern region of Catalunya told EFE in an interview that he felt the company had been able to provide a “new, fresh and dynamic perspective” on a well-known art form.
“I believe that the public has been able to see that contemporary dance can be and means many things. It has been something very beautiful for our public, for our dancers and for the dance community in Australia,” Bonachela said.
As part of the SDC’s 50th anniversary celebrations, Bonachela is presenting his new show “Cinco” (five in Spanish) in Sydney, a name which refers to the 50th anniversary and includes five dancers and music composed in the 1950’s by Argentine Alberto Ginastera.
The SDC is also set to embark upon a tour of Europe this summer, including a stop in Barcelona, where they will perform a show choreographed by Bonachela at the Grec festival.
With a gleam in his eyes, the choreographer said he was happy to fulfill the ambitious dream he had as a child in Garriga, Barcelona, of becoming a choreographer.
It was the American television series Fame – which told the stories of students of a school for performing arts in New York – which inspired Bonachela to believe that he could study dance and take it up professionally during the 1980s, a time when it was rare to see men dancing.
This kicked off a long journey, from his village to Barcelona, and from there on to London, where he joined the legendary Rambert Dance Company in 1992, becoming the associate choreographer before forming his own Bonachela Dance Company, which carried out a number of international performances.
In 2008, he premiered at the SDC with his production ‘360’, and six months later took charge as the artistic director of the institution rather unexpectedly, he recalled, but admitted having enjoyed being in charge of 17 dancers and having the freedom to work and collaborate with great artists.
“My vision when I arrived 10 years ago was bringing to Australia choreographers who had never shown their work here,” said Bonachela, who was named one of the 100 most influential people of the city by the Sydney Magazine.
This was a recognition of his efforts to popularize dance as the SDC director and curator of the Spring Dance international festival of contemporary dance in Australia.
One of the keys to his success has been his capacity to easily transition between the grand dance theaters such as the Palais de Chaillot in Paris or Sadler’s Wells in London to small concerts and videos such as the ones he choreographed for stars such as Kylie Minogue or Tina Turner.
His eclectic background and approach has also led to collaborations with designers such as Dion Lee or visual artists like Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla.
He has also invited to Sydney choreographers such as Jacopo Godani, Alexander Ekman or Cheng Tsung-lung and worked with musicians such as Bryce Dessner, Nick Wales as well as the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
“Sharing the stage with great choreographers is a pleasure (...) my dancers become better,” Bonachela said.
“I, inside the world of dance, know who I am and what I do. I am interested in the physicality of the body, the movement in time and space, which is an abstract dance,” he said.
The landmark celebrations at the SDC include a Gabrielle Nankivell production “Neon Aether,” and Melanie Lane’s “Woof” apart from “Cinco.”
As the final coup de grace, there is a performance that will have a group from the audience sharing the stage with former dancers of the SDC from each decade since its establishment.
Bonachela paraphrases words of choreographer Gideon Obarzanek, who is in charge of the performance: “the history of the company resides in the bodies of the dancers and the memory of the audience.”
As SDC celebrates its fine run, so does Bonachela, who, after a long journey that has taken him across the globe, has found a home in Sydney.