Surprise propositions mark year ahead in dance

In January the 2018 Sydney Festival produced the first of several welcome surprises for the year. Backbone is a physical theatre piece presented as circus but, while it has the heart-stopping excitement of that entertainment, it also has the grace and choreographic line of dance – an exhilarating combination from the group Gravity & Other Myths.

It took most of the year before two more surprises turned the Sydney Dance Company's New Breed into a particular pleasure. In works of unusual imagination and an underlying sense of humour, Prue Lang explored the impact of artificial intelligence in Towards Innumerable Futures, and Holly Doyle tackled the rituals of "cleansing" in Out, Damned Spot! It will be interesting to see what they do next.

Coming to Sydney: Biladurang, a sexy solo for adult audiences presented in a hotel suite.Credit:Pippa Samaya

Jarryd Madden, a senior artist with the Australian Ballet, was the unexpected star of Spartacus, taking the title role in its Sydney season. He is a real discovery for his ability to combine fluid technique with natural acting that engages the audience.

In his first full-length work for six years, Sydney Dance Company artistic director Rafael Bonachela​ created a diverting piece with a tricky title, ab [intra]. Its ensembles are varied and attractive and there are good opportunities for the company's outstanding dancers, most notably soloist Nelson Earl and dueting pair Charmene Yap and Davide di Giovanni​.

Kevin Jackson as Spartacus in the Australian Ballet’s 2018 production.
Credit:Simon Schluter

Teatro alla Scala Ballet Company brought a couple of balletic warhorses to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre: the comic Don Quixote and the tragic Giselle. Each turned out to be something of a revelation, showcasing this terrific company with character as well as style and a sense of history. The high quality of the ensemble is topped by a rich lineup of starring performances.

Then, in December, there was an unforgettable evening of music, dance and memories in the name of the late David Page, known to his family as Dubboo. This was the title given to the tribute by his brother, Stephen Page, artistic director of Bangarra Dance Theatre.

The company's dancers demonstrated not only their familiar Indigenous contemporary style but a strong showbiz streak as they strutted the show dance steps as David had done when he wasn't acting in plays or composing all that memorable music for Bangarra over so many years. It was an emotional evening, remembering an important artist and lovable man through video archives, colleagues' spoken recollections and the living memorial of his music.


The year ahead has some inviting dance propositions. Graeme Murphy has been commissioned by the Australian Ballet to create The Happy Prince from Oscar Wilde's heart-rending story. I'm tearful already.

The Sydney Dance Company is celebrating its 50th year – under several names and a number of directors – with a new work titled Us 50. Some previous company members have been invited back to work with current dancers and choreographer Gideon Obarzanek​. Should be fun.

The Sydney Festival has several enticing possibilities, including One Infinity, a partnership of Australian and Chinese dancers from Townsville-based Dancenorth​ and Beijing Dance Theatre..

Also, good reports have come from interstate for Biladurang​ – a sexy solo for adult audiences presented in a hotel suite – and Man with the Iron Neck, a physical theatre piece by Legs On The Wall that explores Indigenous suicide by focusing on hope and solace.

And if you can get to the Adelaide Festival, you will find two pieces by the Sydney-based choreographer Meryl Tankard, whose work is too rarely seen in Australia. She is staging her fascinating solo Two Feet for the Russian ballerina Natalia Osipova and making a new piece, Zizanie, for Adelaide's Restless Dance Theatre.

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