Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela on the long-awaited 2021 world premiere of Impermanence


11 January 2021


Pedro Greig

In March 2020, just days out from the world premiere of Impermanence, we made the heart-breaking but necessary decision to cancel the impending season amidst the escalating global pandemic. The following months heralded much uncertainty, but we remained devoted to bringing Impermanence to the stage and sharing it with you when the time was right.

That time has come! Impermanence premieres in February 2021.

Read on to hear Rafael talk in-depth about the inspiration for the work and his approach to the choreography.

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The birth of a concept.

The idea of Impermanence came about in conversation with Bryce Dessner in July 2019.

This was not my first-time meeting Bryce. In 2015 I had choreographed Frame of Mind to one of his existing scores. I absolutely loved creating it, and the result was a very powerful work which audiences and critics all enjoyed. Bryce saw a run-through of the work when he came to the studio to meet me and the dancers. He loved it, and at that moment we knew there was more we could do together, so I commissioned Impermanence.

The title of the work reflects on the ephemeral nature of life. I met with Bryce in Paris, where he lives, shortly after Notre Dame had been burned down. He shared thoughts he’d been having about how easily things fall apart, even structures we imagine to be eternal, and we talked about the fragility and impermanence of human life, the planet and human relationships. There’s something both so beautiful and so devastating about that and we decided that we wanted to explore this concept through music and choreography.

In November 2019, Bryce was deep in the process of writing the music when the bush fires in Australia reached catastrophic levels. Images were beamed across the world, and Bryce was deeply affected by what he was seeing on TV. The images of the Australian bush on fire really entered the work and his thinking. He was profoundly moved; he had been here, he had met the dancers, and there was a genuine personal connection for him.

The choreography.

The philosophical concept of change made me think on the ephemeral, the fleeting, things that exist only in a moment and are then transformed. For me personally, the awareness of the impermanence of everything makes me feel that we must use every moment – that every moment counts – and that the transitory nature of life inspires a need for energy, urgency and radiance.

Bryce is an incredible composer and there is an intricacy, complexity and virtuosity in the writing of the score that I love; the patterns are constantly shifting, and this really reflects how I like to work. There are layers and layers beyond the original concept, and I worked with the dancers to interrogate the emotion behind that concept. We workshopped feelings of panic and alarm, the rush of adrenaline and the juxtaposition between force and inertia. I am a choreographer obsessed with craft and this score is the perfect counterpoint to the movement we have created.

New life for Impermanence in 2021.

The ironic twist that saw Impermanence cancelled just days out from the premiere was not lost on us. It was heart-breaking, but it made me believe even more deeply in the importance and relevance of the work. The impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on all of our lives has been profound. We have lost access to so much that we thought was permanent; travel, contact with friends, even the simplicity of human touch. The value of the simple and meaningful in our lives has become so important to us all. What was an emotionally charged and poignant work has become even more so. Nothing, nothing is permanent.

In the aftermath of the first stages of Covid, I decided to turn Impermanence into a full-length work. Bryce has composed the remainder of the score and the Quartet are rehearsing. It is an incredibly exciting outcome and testament to the resilience of all of our artists and collaborators.

In February 2021 at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Walsh Bay, the Australian String Quartet will accompany the dancers live on stage for the long-awaited world premiere of Impermanence and I cannot wait!


Be moved by Rafael Bonachela's Impermanence.

World premiere season February 16 – 27 at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Sydney’s reinvigorated vibrant Walsh Bay Arts Precinct.

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