ab_intra Davide and Nelson

ab [intra]

Education Resources


ab [intra] is the first full length work I have made in six years and I wanted to capture the energy and drive I feel each time I walk into the studio.

I think about ab [intra] (Latin for from within) as an energy transfer between the internal and the external. For me it is more than the external expression of internal concepts, in this dance sphere it is a representation of energy – an energy derived from the interaction of these two facets of our worlds.

My innate human and personal instincts play a major role in my creativity: they feed through the entire process from the point of inspiration, collaborations at every level and right through to the living moments of the final performance. I wanted to try to capture this internal instinctive process and make an external representation of it and so ab [intra] was born.

The creative process started as a series of improvisations where I asked the dancers to be in the moment with each other, to feel and listen – to use their instincts and their impulses and then seek to capture those moments in writing. Those written phrases became the direction for a physical movement sequence, a script for dance, an energy transfer from the thought to the body.

The dancers are an integral part of my creative process and they give life and form to my instincts and creative impulses every day. ab [intra] for me is a work that is derived from the group dynamic of the dancers and what they give in the studio and on the stage, collectively and as individuals, and I thank them for their generosity and tireless efforts.

It has been a pleasure to work with each of my collaborators on this piece. Dance relies so heavily on the intersection of creative ideas and trust, both in the studio and in the creation of the stage environment that surrounds the movement. Thank you to Damien Cooper, David Fleischer and Nick Wales for the results of your individual elements and the results of your collective efforts. I truly appreciated the process as well as the outcome.

Rafael Bonachela

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Choreographer Rafael Bonachela

Composer Nick Wales

Lighting Damien Cooper

Costume and set David Fleischer


READ about the Company Dancers 


ab [intra] is a work of breadth and scale. From its earliest inception, my collaboration with Rafael has continued to focus on both the power and precision of the work being created. This focus in turn has been to develop a visual language that seeks to encompass the distinct and contrasting musical styles. Like the choreography itself, what we see on stage synthesizes the clarity and elegance of the classical scoring as well as the contemporary pulse of Nick’s mesmerising composition.


Our space is one of distillation – a long terrain with somewhat obscured boundaries – heightening the smallness of the human figure at times, but also providing a platform for the bigness of the work to be shaped and sculpted on. The clarity and epic quality of this spatial gesture aims to match the virtuosity of the work.


The dancers are wearing a blend of vintage clothing, contemporary fashion and classic dance wear – each chosen or designed to create a collision on stage that, like a kaleidoscope, creates different patterns and visual rhythms as the movement evolves. In all cases, there is a specificity and humanity to each item, leaving us with a sense of the personal and the lived experience. Albeit in restrained colour palette, and strict stylisation, it became clear that the closest we could get to a human reality, the more inside the work we would become.

David Fleischer

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The early stages for the creation of ab [intra] saw Rafael and I searching for additional music to accompany my compositions. The second cello concerto Klābātne / Presence by Peteris Vasks featuring the cellist Sol Gabetta stood out to us as possessing great passion, immediacy and drive and we decided to incorporate the first and second movements into ab [intra].

Our decision to use Vasks’ concerto informed my initial musical choices, my first gut reaction was to work with the Australian cellist Julian Thompson. Together, we recorded fragments of cello material for me to build the opening two movements of the work. The opening bars of Vasks’ concerto with it’s almost lonely ‘col legno’ and ‘pizzicato’ motifs informed some of these initial recordings.

ab [intra] begins with the textual pulsations and lamentation of a solitary cello building to an expansive almost landscape-like symphonic wall of sound. Pizzicato cello samples feature in the opening two movements, driving the work forward into ‘activation’ with the introduction of darker electronic and percussive passages, counterbalanced with visceral string textures. The electronica gives way to Vasks’ ‘Cadenza – Andante’ with its beautiful and passionate builds, lush beauty and rich sonority.

The fourth movement of ab [intra] features piano, intricate percussion and organic electronica. I was interested in exploring ideas around soft anticipation, building ecstatic states and the inward sources of strength one can achieve through quietly looking within. This movement slowly builds and recedes into an introspective, lament-like transition for solo piano and electronics. Vasks’ Allegro Moderato boldly bounds forward with its neo-classical rhythmic vitality and cadenza-like solo climax by cellist Sol Gabetta.

The final ‘coda’ of ab [intra] again features Julian Thompson with a small string orchestra. As a final layer to the music, I collaborated with songwriter Jack Colwell for a song to conclude the work. The poetic verse (to the right) Jack and I dreamed up was an ever present reference point for my creative process as a whole.


from within

are we born

from within

are we without ourselves


the pulse of others vibrating

just like the lark ascending

pulls us closer to the trees

back to each other


leave this world


every stone

unturned, untouched, unturned


Nick Wales

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“In dance, we don’t follow an already written script we have to make our own.” (Bonachela, 2018)

Latin for ‘from within’, ab [intra] is Rafael Bonachela’s first full-length dance work since 2012. The concept of the work ‘from within’ is a result of the choreographic process where all the inspiration was derived from within the sixteen Company dancers as opposed to external stimulus such as text, images, music or choreographic research.

During the creative development phase, Rafael divided the Company dancers into various sized groups, leading them through a series of eight 30-45 minute improvisations. These improvisations were intentionally open in nature to allow spontaneous and unprecedented movements and ideas to emerge. Rafael asked the dancers to consider the following ideas while improvising: be open and honest with each other, use their instincts, respond to their visceral impulses, be present in the moment, and to feel and listen to each other.

After each improvisation, dancers were provided post-it notes and invited to anonymously write the thoughts, feelings, ideas and sensations they experienced while improvising.

Activate – Unison

Rafael provided each dancer with a post-it and grouped them into pairs or trios. He asked the dancers to create movement inspired by the concept/word on their post-its. One trio became the source movement for the section Activate – Unison. Rafael used the skeleton of the original trio and adapted it to create three solos which maintained the sense of attack, speed and crisp movement quality of the original trio. These solos are performed by three dancers each, in a pyramid group formation.


Rafael also created a solo task where he selected 25 post-its randomly and asked the dancers to individually create a ‘next level gesture’ short phrase (a more complex, full-bodied and unique gestural phrase) for each post-it in the order that they were sequenced. The movement Nelson Earl created through completing this task became the basis for this solo.


Rafael selected a group of five dancers and a series of post-its which included soft existence, channels and pathways, waves, feel the floor, existing together but not touching, and bury it. As Rafael read each post-it aloud, the dancers were tasked with responding to the post-it and each other’s movements. They were required to remember their movements as they improvised, simultaneously setting the choreography.  This section was then taught to a second quintet and structured to create kaleidoscopic patterns where the two groups continue to face various directions and travel around each other.


The structure of ab [intra] emerged as a combination of spontaneous responses to phrases and sections during the creative process and conscious decisions Rafael made which support the arc of the whole work.

The structure was also informed by the music, which in-turn was influenced by the movement being created in the studio and the original composition, Peteris Vasks’ cello concerto – Klābātne / Presence. For example, during several sections which feature loud and orchestral music, a greater number of dancers perform on-stage.

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Rafael Bonachela talks about his ideas and creative process behind ab [intra] in this video, ab [intra]: The Story from Within Part 1 – Creative Process: VIDEO 1

Nick Wales talks about his ideas and creative process behind ab [intra] in this video, ab [intra]: The Story from Within Part 2 – The Music: VIDEO 2

Charmene Yap talks about her experience of ab [intra] in this video, ab [intra]: The Story from Within Part 3The Dance: VIDEO 3

Observe the company’s photoshoot for ab [intra] in this video, Behind the Scenes of the ab [intra] Photoshoot: VIDEO 4


Read Rafael Bonachela’s blog about his creative process, Rafael Bonachela: Purposely Creating Awkward Encounters, April 2018: BLOG 1 

Read about what to expect at the ab [intra] in this CHEAT SHEET.

Read The Sydney Morning Herald feature articleRafael Bonachela’s ab [intra] connects with emotion, written by Neha Kale – May 2018.

Read Limelight feature article, Sydney Dance Company draws from within In ab [intra], written by Jo Litson – May 2018.

Read The Daily Telegraph feature article, Electrifying dance scenes rise from post-it notes, written by Jo Litson – May 2018.

Read Audrey Journal feature article, Rafael Bonachela: In the beginning, the word, written by Jane Albert – May 2018.

Read City Hub feature article, ab [intra], written by Jade Morellini – May 2018.

Read The Sydney Morning Herald review, ab [intra] review: Rafael Bonachela’s work is bold and attractive, written by Jill Sykes – May 2018.

Read Limelight review, ab [intra] (Sydney Dance Company), written by Jo Litson – May 2018.

Read The File review, ab [intra] by Sydney Dance Company has made its world premiere, written by James Banham – May 2018.

Read The Daily Review, ab [intra] dance review (Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney), written Martin Portus – May 2018.

Read TimeOut review, ab [intra], written by Ben Neutze – May 2018.


Nick wales shares his music inspirations during the creation of the ab [intra] score in this Spotify playlist, Behind the Music of ab [intra]: PLAYLIST 1


Improvisation – Task in pairs

Aim: To create a movement phrase based on Sydney Dance Company dancers’ responses to improvisation.

Resource: Print out of post-it note examples included here.

– As a class, read through the ab [intra] Exploring Stimulus resource, discussing how post-it notes were used by the Sydney Dance Company dancers to generate movement.

– Individually, select one post-it and physically explore how many different ways you can interpret the word/phrase written on the post-it, using a variety of different body parts and shapes.

– Once you have explored the word/phrase on your post-it, create a phrase consisting of 8-12 movements.

– In pairs, perform your phrase for each other and discuss what you used as stimulus for your movements and what you interpreted from observing each other. Discuss how audiences can develop diverse interpretations from contemporary dance performances.

– Learn your partner’s phrase and combine them together. You may like to interweave the movements or combine the two phrases consecutively.

– For each of your movements, select one of the following elements of dance. Apply the element to adapt and develop your movement.

  • Body part (changing the movement from one body part to another)
  • Shape (angular, curved, symmetrical or asymmetrical)
  • Size/dimension (small or large)
  • Level (low, medium or high)
  • Tempo (fast, slow, accelerating or decelerating)
  • Direction (forwards, backwards or sideways)
  • Floor pathway (angular or curved, travelling your movement through the space)
  • Movement quality (sustained, percussive, vibratory, collapsing, suspended or swinging)

– Once your phrase is complete, use the following suggestions to further develop and structure your movement material:

  • Repetition: repeat a movement
  • Call and response: alternate movement and stillness between dancers
  • Retrograde: perform the movement in reverse

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Improvisation – Individual Task

Aim: To create a movement phrase based on thoughts, feelings and associations experienced during improvisations.

– As a class, read through the ab [intra] Stimulus resource, discussing how post-it notes were used by the Sydney Dance Company dancers to generate movement.

– Spread throughout the room so that you are unable to observe each other.

– As each post-it from the Company examples is read out loud, improvise movement, responding to your impulses and instincts.

– Using blank post-it notes, write down any feelings, ideas or sensations you experienced during the improvisations.

– Place your post-its on the wall and read through your classmates’ post-its.

– Select two post-its which you did not write and which you find interesting. Consider the following:

  • Does it remind you of an image, a place, an event or a person?
  • How might you describe it?
  • What might the impact of it be?

– Improvise and physically explore how many ways you can interpret each post-it, using a variety of different body parts, shapes, sizes/dimensions, levels, tempos/speeds, directions and movement qualities.

– Select three movements from your improvisation for each post-it to create a short movement phrase.

– If your phrase is becoming too stationary, consider how you could adapt movements to travel through the space using curved or angular floor pathways.

– Select another post-it which you did not write and use it to adapt and develop your movement, layering the new concept or word phrase over your movement.

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Suggested Questions for Discussion

  1. Write down your initial thoughts after watching ab [intra]. You may wish to brainstorm this as a group. Use the below questions to assist with articulating your thoughts and ideas:
  • What sections, movements or phrases did you like or dislike, and why? Can you describe these using the elements of dance?
  • What feelings or emotions did you experience when watching the work? What specifically about the performance made you feel this way?
  • What did the work make you think about?
  • What is your interpretation of the work? Compare and contrast your interpretation of ab [intra] with someone else’s.
  • How did the different aspects (movement, music, set, lighting and costumes) impact your experience?
  • After considering all of the aspects above, would you recommend the performance for someone else?
  1. During the improvisations, Rafael asked the dancers to be open and honest with each other and to feel and listen to each other. Can the essence of these instructions be observed in ab [intra]? Why or why not?
  1. When watching VIDEO 5 Jigsaw, how does Rafael Bonachela use relationships and what do you believe these relationships communicate to audiences? Consider the floor pathways, group formations, and the size and directions of the dancers’ movements and what these elements tell us about the relationships between: individual dancers to each other, individual dancers to their quintet, quintet to quintet, the dancers to the space, and the quintets to the space.
  1. Nelson’s Solo was choreographed by creating a short phrase for each of the post-its listed on the right. When watching VIDEO 6 Solo, can you see any suggestion of the post-its? If so, what elements of these movements (for example, levels, directions, dimension/size, shapes, tempo, floor pathways, movement qualities and actions) suggest they were inspired by these post-its?

Nelson’s Solo Post-its 

  • Collisions Occur
  • Pulse Party
  • Cuddles Far Away Love Jump
  • Spin, Spin Around, Spin Upside Down, Spin Downwards, Spin to a Stop
  • To Meet and Never See Again
  • Pin Down
  • Carry
  • Energy Flow
  • More Body
  • Morphing of Movement
  • Slow Walking
  • Power Play
  • Sculpt You
  • Some Expressions
  • Dependence
  • Emotional
  • Intimacy
  • Running Free
  • Replacing the Space
  • Escaping Connection
  • Very Noisy
  • Taking/Giving
  • What Happens When You Fall
  • Games

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