One to Watch

Voices; Bonachella Dance Company, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, November 20.This was the first performance from Bonachella Dance Company in their role as new associate company of DanceEast.

Voices; Bonachella Dance Company, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, November 20.

This was the first performance from Bonachella Dance Company in their role as new associate company of DanceEast. And what an introduction to Suffolk it was.

Although one of Bonachella's dances had appeared in a mixed evening of dance at Snape Maltings during the past year, this was the first evening with just his own company dancers.

Rafael Bonachella shot to fame after he choreographed Kylie's Brit Award appearance in 2002; he then went on to work with her for the Fever Tour and other public performances.


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The evening at Bury St Edmunds, entitled Voices, was in two parts, the first piece called something I can't even type but it was the Basque word for voices.

The six dancers, all dressed in sweat pants, colourful T-shirts and shorts, looked like street kids in hand-me-downs.

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The score started out with just city traffic noises, which must have been challenging for the dancers to know when to move as there were few defining moments.

Then a viola struck up a chord and its almost awkward combinations of plucking and strained notes added to the apparent conflict and confusion portrayed by dancers, who at timed seemed to be in battle, or in a street fight. Bonachella very often gets his dancers to use one as counter-balances, and one of the signature movements, which I'd seen before at Snape Maltings, was when one falls backwards and is caught by the back of the neck by another dancer, suspended for a second.

This was by no means an harmonious piece, with the accompanying music and movements of the dancers very fast, erratic and jarring. All six dancers stayed on stage the entire time, with couples highlighted for different sections while the others swayed and shrunk into the background. The speed and precision with which they moved was awe-inspiring and it was totally captivating.

Set Boundaries was the second of the pieces, and in this there was a more obvious connection to the theme voices, as the choir group The Sixteen had given their group voice to the specially commissioned piece of music by Matthew Herbert.

The dancers were dressed minimally, in white pants and vests. In the background, a video projection by Lenka Clayton showed alternating shots of sentinels guarding the North and South Korean borders. Half way through, a voice-over spoke of an Iraqi man's nightmare of being exiled in his own country, of not fitting into or being welcomed into the UK, and the pain of being parted from his family.

The dancers moved with such beauty, precision and certainty as they portrayed their own interpretations of trying to escape, to get out of a confined space, to become free. The white lighting from above helped convey this feeling of being trapped, as if in a prison, as did the basic costumes, which created a sense of minimalism. The movements were mainly fast, furious and precise, and I hardly saw a repeated move the entire time, such is the inventiveness and originality of Bonachella's choreography.

For a one-and-a-half-year-old company, I was bowled over by the professionalism and high quality of dance. Never was there a dull moment, as the choreography constantly challenged and surprised. It was as if Bonachella had created his own, completely new language of contemporary dance. Definitely a company to watch.

Katy Evans

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