Rafael Bonachela’s latest creation, Ocho, features eight virtuosic dancers, a surging electronic score by Nick Wales and an industrial dreamscape. In this interview, Raf discusses the inspiration and creative process behind Ocho, and reflects on some of his favourite memories from his eight years as Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company.
Tell us a bit about ‘Ocho’ and where your inspiration came from.
Ocho, in the simplest of terms, means eight in Spanish. This is a number that is significant to me right now as I have been Artistic Director for eight years and have also chosen to work with eight dancers in this piece. While the work is not a reflection on that period, it gives me an opportunity to reveal what I have learned during that time.
For Ocho, I was interested in exploring the virtuosity of the solo performer and working closely with each dancer and their uniqueness. As a choreographer, I am often drawn to the physical contact between dancers, but for Ocho, I set myself the task of holding back on that physical contact and allowing the individual dancers to explore their physical personality among the group, leading up to an eventual connection.
This will be your seventh collaboration with composer Nick Wales. What draws you to his music?
Nick and I have developed a great working relationship. He is really receptive to my creative process and my way of thinking. We spend a lot of time in his studio before I start creating the work, throwing ideas back and forth. He works really beautifully with the concepts that I throw at him so that is something that I wanted to keep exploring, digging deeper into our creative relationship.
Working with Nick allows me to explore new ground and also to push the correlation between my movement language and his music. What’s really exciting about this collaboration with Nick is that he has decided to collaborate with Aboriginal artist Rrawun Maymuru of the Mangalili clan, whose haunting vocals feature in his electronic score.
This work is set in an industrial dreamscape. Tell us a bit about this and how you decide if a piece should have a set.
This work is located in a slightly surreal, very urban, architectural edifice. It’s very metallic and there is a glass box inside a wall. The set is imposing and solid, nearly overwhelming the dance space. The eight dancers start in the obstructed glass box, almost under scrutiny, moving through the physical space. For me, it’s all about this very built environment and how the individuals move through it. David Fleischer, the set designer, spent a lot of time in the studio with me as I was working one-to-one with the dancers. Together we have explored what the world on stage is conveying to the audience as they watch the dancers move through and break out of these spaces.
‘Ocho’ is part of the upcoming double bill Orb, which will also premiere a new work by Taiwanese choreographer Cheng Tsung-lung. What drew you to working with Tsung-lung?
I love the unique flowing quality to his choreography – his movement is very pure, detailed and intricate, always crafted in beautiful patterns.
This year marks your eighth year with Sydney Dance Company. What has been your most memorable moment so far?
I have been lucky to have many memorable moments, so I will stick with my most recent one – Crazy Times, our first ever creation of a primary school show choreographed by Antony Hamilton, one of Australia’s most exciting choreographers. Nude Live has also been an overwhelming highlight of my career, the opportunity to work among all that amazing artwork was an experience I will remember forever.
‘Ocho’ premieres as part of the extraordinary lunar mystery Orb, 29 April – 27 May in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.