Rafael Bonachela is a Choreographer, Artistic Director and Curator whose career has seen him successfully span high art and popular culture, working across a range of art forms, including contemporary dance, art installations, pop concerts, musicals, film, commercials and
Bonachela’s appointment as Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company in 2009 made international headlines and heralded a new era in Australian contemporary dance. His vision for the Company embraces a guiding principle that sees commissioned dance works by Australian and International choreographers alongside his own critically acclaimed creations.
In 2022, Cartier announced Rafael as a new Friend of the Maison. From his internationally recognised talent as both a dancer and choreographer, to his commitments supporting a new generation of emerging artists and choreographers, Bonachela embodies values cherished by Cartier: strength of character, virtuosity and the ability to find beauty wherever it may lie.
Bonachela’s work is strong, sober and sharp. The exploration of pure movement is where he finds his unmistakable style. The result is an incandescent dance that springs from the power of movement, in which energy and muscle strength combine with a great emotional sensitivity.
Bonachela was born in La Garriga near Barcelona (1972) where he began his early dance training beforemoving to London to join the legendary Rambert Dance Company where he danced from 1992 to 2004.
His career has seen him performing works by some of the world’s greatest choreographers including Merce Cunningham,Christopher Bruce, Jiri Kylian, Twyla Tharp, Mats Ek, Sue Davies,Wayne McGregor, Ohad Naharin, Karole Armitage, Frederick Ashton and Antony Tudor among others.
His first choreographic work for Rambert, “ThreeGone, Four Left Standing” was premiered in 1999 at Sadler’s Wells. He was appointed as Rambert’s Associate Choreographer from April 2003, a position he held until 2005 where he created a total of nine works.
In 2006 Rafael was invited to become one of the first Artists in Residence at the South Bank Centre at which time he successfully set up the Bonachela Dance Company to concentrate on the rapid rise of his choreographic career.
Bonachela has created and collaborated with companies worldwide including Acosta Danza, Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company, Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, the Ballet Boyz and Candoco among others.
In 2008, Rafael premiered his first full-length production 360° for Sydney Dance Company and less than six months later, he was appointed Artistic Director. Since then, Rafael has created numerous critically-acclaimed works for the Company including we unfold (2009), 6 Breaths (2010), LANDforms (2011) , 2 One Another (2012), Project Rameau (2012), Emergence (2013), Les Illuminations (2013), 2 in D Minor (2014), Scattered Rhymes (2014), Frame of Mind (2015), Lux Tenebris (2016), Anima (2016), Ocho (2017), ab [intra] (2018) and Cinco (2019). In addition, he has remounted outstanding repertoire from Bonachela Dance Company such as Soledad and Irony of Fate (2010) and The Land of Yes & The Land of No (2011).
In September 2019, a duet from Bonachela’s full length work ab [intra] was performed by etoiles of the Paris Opéra Ballet for their prestigious 350th Anniversary Fundraising Gala at Palais Garnier. The evening also included works from Ben Stevenson, Serge Lifar, George Balanchine and William Forsythe.
In February 2021, Bonachela’s newest full-length work Impermanence had its world premiere in Sydney, followed by an Adelaide Festival smash hit run. During the 2021 COVID-19 lockdown, Bonachela choreographed a new online work Years, which was performed live for the first time in February 2022 at MPavilion in Melbourne.
Bonachela curated 62Cat the Royal Festival Hall in London (2009) and the international festival Spring Dance for the Sydney Opera House (2012). In 2012, Rafael was listed as one of (Sydney) magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People for his efforts to popularise dance since becoming Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company.
Bonachela and his ensembles are the recipient of multiple awards, most notably in February 2013, Bonachela was honored with an Officer’s Cross of the Order of Civil Merit by His Majesty the King of Spain. The inaugural The Place Prize in London (2004), Bloomberg New York Choice Award (2004), Choo San Goh Award, USA (2005), 19th International competition for Choreographers Hannover (2005), Guglielmo Ebreo prize and the Critics’ Prize, Biennale Danza e Italia (2006), Critics Award Villanueva Cuba (2007), Australian Dance Award (2011, 2013), Dance Australia Critics Survey (2012, 2013), Helpmann Awards (2015), Green Room Award (2012, 2016) and the Imagine Award Nude Live Sydney (2017).
Bonachela’s work has been presented in major international galleries, he was invited to curate and present his work at Art Plus Dance Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2005). His film Muse was part of the “40 Artists 40 days” exhibition at Tate Online, London (2012). More recently he created Nude Live, a dance installation which was performed as part of The Art Gallery of NSW’s exhibition, “Nude – Art from the Tate Collection” Sydney (2017) which was recently awarded the IMAGinE Excellence Award. His collaborations with artists from other disciplines include many exploring ways in which dance can operate outside the usual theatre forum. Liquid Landscapes with architect Nigel Coates and filmmaker John Maybury, Venice Biennale (2008). Revolving Door, with artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla’s, 13 Rooms by Kaldor Art Projects Sydney (2013).Inside There Falls with artist Mira Calix installation at Carriageworks as part of Sydney Festival (2015).
In 2002 Bonachela’s career took an interesting turn when he was commissioned to choreograph Kylie Minogue’s routine at the Brit Awards. His unique approach to choreography, combining contemporary dance within a more mainstream context, was so highly acclaimed that he went onto work extensively with Ms Minogue, other pop artist and commercial clients including; Tina Turner, The Kills, Primal Scream, Jaguar Automóviles, Siemens Mobile, Hugo Boss, and Lexus.
Under Rafael’s Artistic Direction, Sydney Dance Company and Carriageworks with the support of The Balnaves Foundation, launched a major multi–year program, New Breed, in 2014. The program supports young Australian choreographers through the creation and presentation of new and diverse dance works.
Bonachela’s career has seen him collaborate with many artists in different fields such as composers (Ezio Bosso, Nic Wales, Tarik O’Regan, Matthew Herbert, Marius de Vries, Benjamine Wallfisch), musicians (Sarah Blasco, Katie Noonan, Kylie Minogue, Tina Turner, The Sixteen), orchestras (Australian Chamber Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Sydney Symphony), visual artists (Angela de la Cruz, Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla’s, Lenka Clayton), production desiners (Alan Macdonald, Raph Myers, Tony Assness, David Fleisher), fashion (Toni Maticevsky, Dion Lee), Filmmakers (Daniel Askill, Tim Richardson, Dimitri Basil, Dawn Shadforth, Johan Renck, Clemens Habitch), poets (Sam Webster) and photographers (Pedro Greig, Jez Smith, Hugh Stewart).
Bonachela has also collaborated with filmmakers choreographing short dance films Nowhere Better Than This Place (2001), The Kreutzer Sonata (2003), 21 featuring Kylie Minogue (2003), Muse (2004), EdOx for the Balletboyz(2008), Small Gestures in Bare Rooms (2010), Music to Move interactive digital project (2014).
2023 is Rafael’s 15th year as Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company.