De Novo by The Sydney Dance Company

This review comes with a caveat. The 20-something yuppie woman in front of me thought it was a brilliant idea to see a show with two columns of hair, each six inches high, packed neatly side by side like chimney stacks on the top-back of her head. Ensuring she got a great view during the show by leaning forward thereby completely obstructing my own view when she wasn’t moving around with the action on stage guaranteeing my view persistently blocked. It didn’t help that her 20-something yuppie boyfriend sat bolt upright during the final vignette and also moved around for a better view of the stage – sometimes their heads would gently nestle in the middle so then I could see nothing at all.

Sydney Dance Company perform Cacti. Photo by Peter Greig.
Sydney Dance Company perform Cacti. Photo by Peter Greig.

Despite the restricted view the 3 vignettes of De Novo are a joy to behold. Beginning with Sydney Dance Company’s own Artistic Director, Rafael Bonachela’s 37 minute Emergence. It employs the talent of the full 16-member cast assisted by dramatically simple yet effective stage and lighting by Benjamin Cisterne whereby the dancers slowly emerge from behind a total of 8 on stage scrims. Gently rhythmic dancing and music gives way to intensity before moving into something rigidly sensual with all 16 dancers. Some audience members felt drained by the length of the piece and it could probably do with an edit but the professionalism of the choreography and the dancers overcomes any real shortcomings.

[pull_left]The powerfully petite Jesse Scales drew gasps from her hometown audience[/pull_left]

Following that is Larissa McGowan’s Fanatic. It’s a humorous romp through the Alien and Predator movie franchise from the perspective of fans of the series. Dancers mime snippets of dialogue from the films in a way that is engaging and laugh-out-loud funny. The powerfully petite Jesse Scales drew gasps from her hometown audience with some dancing that simply dominated the room. A surprising and amusing audience plant augments the dancing. The general sense here is one of fun and action. Cisterne shines again with the lighting but he could have, and should have, done more with this piece.

Sydney Dance Company leaves the best until last with Alexander Ekman’s Cacti. Accompanied by a string quartet, the full complement of dancers and Lighting Design by Tom Vissner, Cacti is part Stomp, part Ballet, part Spaghetti Western, part Aspara and wholistically Modern Dance. All in all, it’s a gloriously sardonic exploration of what is often termed “post-modernism”. Whatever the ultimate audience interpretation of Cacti is, whether that audience are yuppie Philistines or daggy Bogans (like me), it couldn’t possibly fail to delight and entertain.

At the end of the evening, De Novo received the standing ovation it thoroughly deserved.

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