• ab [intra]
  • ab [intra]
  • ab [intra]

ab [intra]

14 May - 1 Sept
Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra
National Tour

Sydney Dance Company’s National Tour of ab [intra] opened to rave reviews in Sydney and is ‘contemporary dance at its most evocative and beautiful’ (Timeout ★★★★).

ab [intra], meaning ‘from within’ in Latin is ‘an exploration of our primal instincts, our impulses and our visceral responses’, says choreographer Rafael Bonachela. From tenderness to turmoil, ab [intra] is a journey of intense human existence that will command your attention.

The music fuses lush cello concerto with ambient electronica and the exquisite dancers occupy a visually arresting ethereal world. This is a ferociously physical and heartfelt piece that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.

ab [intra] ‘has to be seen to be believed’ (SMH ★★★★). Don’t miss this electrifying journey showcasing Australia’s best contemporary dancers.

“★★★★ Bold… impressive athleticism and energy… has to be seen to be believed.”  The Sydney Morning Herald
★★★★½ A dazzling, electrifying, heartfelt work. Highly recommended.” Limelight

Sydney | 14 – 26 May
Melbourne | 30 May – 2 June
National Tour | 15 June – 1 September

Warning: This production contains haze

ab [intra] is approximately 70mins 

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Past Performances:

14 – 26 May
Roslyn Packer Theatre Walsh Bay, Sydney

30 May – 2 June
Arts Centre Melbourne

Wednesday 30 May, 8pm
Thursday 31 May, 8pm
Friday 1 June, 12pm Secondary School Matinee
Friday 1 June, 8pm
Saturday 2 June, 2pm
Saturday 2 June, 8pm

15 June Darwin Entertainment Centre

20 June Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre
23 – 24 June Mandurah Performing Arts Centre
28 – 30 June His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth

12 July Empire Theatre, Toowoomba
18 July Pilbeam Theatre, Rockhampton
21 July Gladstone Entertainment Centre
25 – 26 July HOTA, Home of the Arts (Gold Coast)

1 Aug Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre
4 Aug Orange Civic Theatre
10, 11 Aug Civic Theatre Newcastle

30 Aug – 1 Sept Canberra Theatre Centre, Canberra

ab [intra] is approximately 70mins 

Choreographer: Rafael Bonachela
Composer: Nick Wales*
Lighting: Damien Cooper
Costumes and Sets: David Fleischer


*Original compositions for ab [intra] by Nick Wales
Additional Music from Klatbune by Peteris Vasks, with permission of Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd, exclusive agents for Schott Music Ltd of Mainz


Despite being one of the youngest art forms, contemporary dance is perhaps the most primal and physical. Less emphasis is placed on narrative structure – contemporary dance engages you on an emotional level. The audience response to a performance is part of the work. Without leaving your seat, you are a collaborator.

Contemporary dance is open to your own personal interpretation, you can view it in the same way you experience art and ask yourself how it makes you feel. Read our ‘Collaborators Guide To Contemporary Dance’ here.

The performance of ab [intra] lasts for approximately 70 minutes with no interval and will take you on a journey into a world of exquisite athleticism and human connection.


2. THE MAKING OF ab [intra]

ab [intra] is the latest creation from Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela, opening Sydney Dance Company’s 2018 season. It marks his first full-length work in six years.

Meaning ‘from within’ in Latin, the concept behind ab [intra] began as a series of improvisations by the Company dancers. Bonachela asked each of the dancers to anonymously write down thoughts, feelings, ideas and sensations while they experimented in the studio. Some of what was written down include:

Soft existence, channels and pathways, waves, feel the floor, existing together but not touching, bury it, so many colours in the spectrum, purposely creating awkward encounters.

These responses became the driving force for the creation of ab [intra]. Bonachela used these thoughts as a script to explore in his work, particularly the instructions, “soft existence” and “purposely creating awkward encounters.” He wanted the dancers to express themselves as raw and honest in the moment as possible.

Bonachela and the dancers used these directives to create solos, duets, trios and other different groupings. The choreographic language and the mood of ab [intra] ultimately results from a very personal, instinctual place.

Watch a behind-the-scenes video about the making of ab [intra].

Fun fact: ab [intra] was conceived on hundreds of yellow Post-it notes, with scribbled down thoughts by the dancers.



“The dancers are always my faithful collaborators. They give themselves personally and intimately, they bring their own experiences to the studio and the trust we have as an ensemble delivers its own authenticity and openness.” – Rafael Bonachela

Rafael Bonachela is originally from Barcelona and has been the Artistic Director at Sydney Dance Company for 10 years. He began his career as a dancer for the world renowned Rambert Dance Company in 1992 and later became Rambert’s Associate Choreographer.

As a choreographer, Bonachela has been commissioned to make works for Candoco, George Piper Dances, ITDANSA Danza, Contemporanea de Cuba, Transitions Dance Company, Dance Works Rotterdam, and more.

His internationally recognised talent has seen him work not only with contemporary dance at the highest level but also with artists from popular culture, such as Kylie Minogue, Tina Turner, Sarah Blasko and Katie Noonan, as well as leading fashion designers Dion Lee and Toni Maticevski.

Read more about Rafael Bonachela’s creative process in the making of ab [intra].

Fun fact: Rafael is an avid green thumb, with a vast collection of pot plants. His favourite? The Phalaenopsis, or more commonly known as the moth orchid.



The music of ab [intra] blends string instrumentals with electronic soundscapes. This season also sees the return of Rafael Bonachela’s long-time musical collaborator, composer Nick Wales. Wales works across contemporary dance, film, theatre, and classical music. He first worked with Bonachela in 2012 on the award-winning 2 One Another, and with Sarah Blasko on the score for 2 in D Minor.

Alongside Wales’ score, ab [intra] also features the string concerto, Klātbūtne (“Presence”) by Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks. Vasks’ compositions are informed by choral and folk traditions and are characterised for their spiritual introspection and emotional depth – full of strength, purity and serenity.

Watch a behind-the-scenes video of the making of the ab [intra] music.

Listen to Klātbūtne (“Presence”).

Fun fact: Nick Wales was inspired by artists such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ben Frost, and Radiohead while working on the ab [intra] soundscape. Listen to his Spotify playlist.



For ab [intra], Costume and Set Designer David Fleischer decided to work with a minimalist, raw aesthetic. The stage is white to provide a clean, pure focus for the audience, while the wings are stripped back and exposed to highlight the industrial quality of the space.

The costumes include elements of both classical ballet wear, such as tights, bare chests, and leotards, and modern clothing such as trousers, skirts, bras, and t-shirts.

To contrast the energy from the dancers the Lighting Designer, Damien Cooper has used low energy LED fixtures so that the total energy usage is under 15000 watts.

Fun facts:
Sydney Dance Company has been able to reduce its energy footprint for this season through using all LED fixtures. The lighting requires the same power as just 12 normal theatre lights and could be powered by only 6 standard power points.

There were 500 hours spent making the costumes.



There are 17 full time dancers in Sydney Dance Company. All dancers rehearse five days a week (six when required), commencing with a ballet or contemporary technique class at 9.30am, then rehearsals until 6pm. Rehearsals range from run-throughs of current repertoire to creating new work for upcoming seasons. Many dancers also undertake additional training of their choice, such as cycling, swimming or cross training.

Contemporary dancers often perform in bare feet or socks dyed to their skin tone, although you may see them wearing different footwear in some pieces.

The dancers also see the company physiotherapist a few times a week for tailored pre-hab sessions and to manage any niggles or injuries they may have.

Read Company dancer Juliette Barton’s dancer diary on our blog.

Fun fact: After the show, some dancers take an ice bath to stimulate muscle repair.



The term ‘choreography’ refers to a sequence of steps that become phrases and make up a dance piece.  Like actors remembering their lines, dancers learn and remember these movement phrases during rehearsals so that they can perform them perfectly on stage.

To enable future casts to perform the piece, companies use a number of archival methods, including video-recording, passing it on from human to human (bringing back an original cast dancer to teach a new dancer), and taking notes that describe the intangible parts of the work, for example, ‘how it feels’. There is also choreology – various styles of dance notation which use visual symbols to represent an order of movement.



Roslyn Packer Theatre Walsh Bay is located at 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay. Previously called Sydney Theatre, it is one of a number of industrial, heritage buildings converted into arts spaces along Sydney’s Harbour. Situated on the site of two old Bond Stores from the 1890s, the theatre took three years to build, opening in 2004.

From the beautiful bare brick walls to intact warehouse machinery, the rugged sandstone wall in the scene dock to wooden panels in the foyers made from timber salvaged from building demolished during the Walsh Bay development, the building speaks of its past. The total capacity for each performance of ab [intra] is 845, including the stalls and dress circle.



A contemporary dance crowd is diverse. Anything from what you’d wear to see a band, through to smart casual or formal, is appropriate.



The Walsh Bay area has many restaurants and bars with stunning views, where you can enjoy a meal and a drink pre- or post-show.

Venues include: Sydney Dance Lounge, Ventuno, Fratelli Fresh, Lotus Dumpling Bar, and Bar at the End of the Wharf.

Present your show ticket at Ventuno’s, for 10% off your main meal, at Hicksons Izakaya for 15% off your pre show dinner or Walsh Bay Kitchen for a post-show $35 supper (2 wines and cheeseboard or 2 espresso martinis and flourless chocolate cake). 



Watch our trailer for ab [intra] plus behind-the-scenes videos and follow #SDCIntra on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“★★★★ Bold… impressive athleticism and energy… has to be seen to be believed.”  The Sydney Morning Herald

“Sydney Dance Company delivers intensity to startle and delight” The Australian

★★★★ This is contemporary dance at its most evocative and beautiful…moments of sheer wonderment and unexpected emotional catharsis.” Time Out

★★★★½ A dazzling, electrifying, heartfelt work. Highly recommended.” Limelight

“Bonachela says in the program that he wanted ab [intra] ‘to capture the energy and drive I feel each time I walk into the studio’. He and his company have succeeded brilliantly.” The Daily Telegraph

“★★★★½ The energy on stage is electrifying. The dancers display astonishing power and precision…ab [intra] is an impressive piece and clearly places the Sydney Dance Company as a leader in creating and performing new work.” Arts Hub 

★★★★ A beautiful display of interconnected athleticism… It’s a captivating journey” Daily Review

“A truly engaging and emotional performance showcasing their technical brilliance and strength”  Dance Life 

This is a powerful and moving work – see it if you can.” Dance Australia 

“★★★★ I was gripped until the last second, after which I collapsed back into my seat.  If this is the sort of energy that Bonachela and his dancers walk into every working day, then it is a force to be reckoned with.Bachtrack

“★★★★ One of the strongest seasons for SDC in recent years.Herald Sun

Watching dancers at the very top of the profession …there’s something magical about this work, something sombre and eerie, that made it compelling viewing.SeeSaw Magazine

“What the critics says: Rafael Bonachela’s emotionally complex new work draws unanimous praise.” Audrey Journal

“… ab [intra] opened to a standing ovation at the Roslyn Packer Theatre… be sure to book quickly.” Sydney Scoop

Nothing short of engrossing…encapsulating rollercoaster…sumptuously moving and impressive.” The File

I just wanted to say the biggest ‘thank you’ to you and to the company  for the tickets on Monday night. I was completely blown away by Rafael’s  work and by the extraordinary abilities of the dancers. It was  breathtaking. Beautiful and athletic with moments that surprised me and  took my breath away. Completely in awe. Thank you.” Audience member