Nude Live was a game-changing collaboration between Sydney Dance Company and the Art Gallery NSW, in which the dancers bared their bodies (and their souls) to respond to paintings, sculptures and photographs of nudes through the ages.
“I have so many incredible memories of my time so far with Sydney Dance Company, but if I had to choose just one, it would be the ‘nudist’ Nude Live performances at The Art Gallery of NSW.”
Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela remembers, “When Justin Paton, the curator of this magnificent exhibition, asked me to consider how Sydney Dance Company could create a piece responding to the art, it was a no brainer for me: I was in! As soon as the dancers and I experienced the amazing art in this stunning location, we were inspired. One could create an entire performance just based on a single artwork of this exhibition, but we had had over 100 works, from across two centuries, to inspire us and to create the ‘performance’.
The joy of creating ‘Nude Live’ was, for me, the opportunity to connect with the art entirely on its own terms. The lighting was limited, there were no seats to relax in, there was no proscenium arch, and there was no linear progression for the audience to follow. I wanted the experience for the viewer to be entirely personal; for them to engage with each moment of dance in their own way; and to respond to the bodies they were surrounded by.
Just like the art on the walls, ‘Nude Live’ explored the body. The living and breathing body, the performing body, the sensuous and intimate body, and the stripped-back simplicity and poetry of the dancing body.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous yet excited at the same time. I explained to the audience what to expect; “Don’t touch the artwork, unless the artwork touches you. No photography. Now disrobe!” And with the removal of our clothing, I was surprised by how quickly the nerves disappeared and how comfortable and relaxed the group became as we surrendered to the experience. I was astonished by how pure, moving, transformational and humbling it was. The nudity was not about exhibitionism: it enabled the audience to have a fuller experience of the art that encompassed a spectrum of body types, and also allowed us to reflect on social and cultural protocols around nudity. It was an incredibly unifying experience: everyone vulnerable yet liberated, connected as one. The artworks, the artists, the dancers and the audience all becoming part of the exhibition. It was a profound experience for me – so human, so real and powerful. It was not just a tribute to the human form but a celebration of our connectedness and our shared humanity.”
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Photos by Pedro Greig