SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Dancers perform during a media preview at Roslyn Packer Theatre on March 25, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney Dance Company's 50th Anniversary Triple bill features work from Australian choreographic talents Rafael Bonachela, Gabrielle Nankivell and Melanie Lane. (Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage)

Cinco – Primary

Education Resources


I have, for a long time, enjoyed playing with numbers and Alberto Ginastera’s String Quartet No. 2 Op. 26, composed in five parts, presented a ready name and approach for my new work. Cinco, Spanish for five, is fitting for the 50th anniversary year for Sydney Dance Company and my 10th anniversary as Artistic Director.

Using five dancers I have explored the duality and opposition that I hear in the texture of the music. At times melancholic and pensive and at others insistent and urgent, the movement is paced to the emotive states I encountered as I listened over and over in the months prior to making this work.

Much of the movement was devised within the imaginary constraints of a pentagon, with the dancers operating within their own five-sided world, each overlapping and intersecting. The repetition and patterns in the music gave me the opportunity to create harmony with unison group sections.

My approach to the work has been driven by a mathematical approach which has been wholly softened and enriched by my collaborators. It is a great pleasure to have worked once more with Damien Cooper who brings a richness to the lighting design.

The opportunity to collaborate with fashion designer Bianca Spender has been a dream for me. I have adored watching her bring her defined sensibility to the stage, clothing the dancers in twists and falls to match their own physical grace.

My sincere thanks go to the whole team who have worked on Cinco, and most especially the dancers.

Rafael Bonachela

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Choreography: Rafael Bonachela

Music: Alberto Ginastera, String Quartet #2

Costume: Bianca Spender

Lighting Design: Damien Cooper


READ about the Company Dancers


When I started thinking about the costumes for Cinco, there were two pinpoints for me: designing movement and design inspired from music. From the first time I listened to Alberto Ginastera’s String Quartet No. 2 Op. 26, I was transformed into a world of movement, dance and an imposing intensity of softness and hardness that was twisted yet beautiful at the same time. So, I started trying to curate ideas which emulated that exact sense of freedom and intensity, working with twists that wrap around the body.

Once I’d created the costumes and brought them to the first rehearsal, I found that my vision wasn’t as effective in a group, and I had misunderstood the men’s requirements. Their costumes didn’t feel strong enough so from there we cut all the garments into pieces to fulfill the concept of ‘twisted beauty’. The costumes, however, still lacked modernity so we spliced the fabrics to create a stronger, indefinable line. I wanted the structure of the garments to represent those different worlds of movement in both the music and in the dancers’ form.

The music alternates between soft and hard tones, and sequences of long and short notes. I interpreted this transition as a representation of dusk to dawn and began to look at corresponding colours. I was also inspired by the translation of the title, ‘five’, which you can see in the five colours used in the costumes: light and dark mushroom grey, dark and dusty blue and a golden haze.

I also wanted the continuous fluctuation of the music to be represented in my design. To accentuate the dancers’ bodies in every movement, I used the finest quality silk chiffon, creating a romantic light-lustre effect. When worn by the dancers under the stage lighting, the audience will be able to see every gesture they make and the air floating through the costumes; when the dancers jump, the costumes imitate this movement and jump themselves.

Bianca Spender

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Music. Dancers. Choreography. Clothes. Lights. So simple but together so much tension. This is going to be wild.

The lighting will add an extra level to the choreography of the space. Five lights that will interrogate five dancers. They will be in your face, they will hide, they will focus, and they will push the rhythmic structure of Ginastera’s music. Colour will be used sparingly, allowing Bianca Spender’s costume to dominate the palette.

Damien Cooper

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Rafael Bonachela’s dance work Cinco (Spanish for five) was inspired by Alberto Ginastera’s String Quartet No. 2 Op. 26, a composition in five movements. Rafael describes the music as raw, emotive, frantic, haunting, melancholic, fearless, virtuosic and with a sense of perpetual motion, which is sometimes smooth and connected and at other times percussive. These aspects inspired the idea of rebellion – the act of resisting or overcoming another force and finding harmony through conflict. Rafael wanted to communicate these aspects through movement while exploring the numerical concept ‘five’.

Rafael then researched into the geometry of the number five, using this as inspiration to inform choreographic tasks to generate movement. This research also influenced his choices regarding the structure the work (in five movements), number of dancers performing, group formations (pentagon) and floor patterns used (shape of a five-pointed star).

Creating Solos

Rafael created a choreographic task which combined three aspects to generate new movements. He asked the dancers to imagine they were standing inside three pentagons intersecting their body along the lateral/horizontal plane: one at their feet, one at their waist and one above their heads. Each of pentagon’s five angles (points) was assigned a number from 1-15. He also assigned the dancers’ five body regions a number from 1-5 (including head, two arms and two legs). He finally provided the dancers a list of words which end in ‘ive’ (for example: give and massive), linking to the word ‘five’.

Rafael provided the dancers with random combinations of numbers and words and asked them to create single movements which combined one body region moving towards the direction of one pentagon angle and informed by one of the words ending in ‘ive’.

This complex task resulted in five solos which have been placed throughout the piece and phrases which have been included and adapted throughout the work.

Creating Duos

Rafael asked the dancers to create five phrases which each consisted of five movements to be performed over the duration of five counts using either their upper body (torso, arms and head) or lower body (legs). He paired the dancers and asked them to combine their upper and lower body phrases together. Rafael then reassigned partners and asked them to create duos by responding to each other’s phrases. They could do this by finding moments to physically connect with each other, interact with the negative space around each other and manipulate each other’s movements.


Prior to choreographing Cinco, Rafael created a timeline which unpacked the mood, intensity and pacing of the music. As movement was being generated and developed in the studio, he structured these sections of solos, duos, trios, quartets and quintets into this timeline creating a strong connection between the music and movement and an arc which flows over the duration of the whole work.

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Cinco is all about the number five: five movements, five costumes, five dancers and five decades of Sydney Dance Company performing for audiences.

We have used the elements of dance (action, space, time, dynamics and relationships) to break down the production. This may assist those experiencing live contemporary dance for the first time to describe and understand what they are observing. The elements of dance is a framework which you may use to discuss the dance work with your class and encourage thoughtful responses from your students.

Action – What?

– Look out for some of the following actions: lifts, reaches, turns, arm circles, kicks, angular jumps, falls, sliding, walking and running.

– Dancers project a sense of focus in the space by watching one another.

– Dancers support and lift each other.

– Most of the movement is locomotor, which means the movement travels through space (in contrast to non-locomotor movements which are performed stationary).


Space – Where?

– Movements are performed in all locations of the stage.

– The choreography frequently changes direction and the dancers do not always face the audience.

– The dancers continually travel throughout the space using pathways. In some sections, the dancers’ floor pathways create the shape of a five-pointed star.


Time – When?

– The dancers perform movements of different durations in combinations of regular and irregular rhythms.

– The movement is highly accented with emphasis placed on different actions.

– Quite often a movement phrase will commence with one or two dancers. Other dancers will then join at different points in the phrase.

– The musical composition and choreography is structured in five movements.


Dynamics – How?

-The choreography incorporates different movement qualities including: strong, energetic, percussive, sustained, soft and fluid.

– There are contrasts in the dynamics between the different sections. Some solos are soft and fluid while other sections performed in unison have a stronger energy and are more percussive.


Relationships – Who?

– There are sections in the dance where the whole company perform in unison, which means they perform the same movement at the same time.

– The choreography was created for five dancers and is performed in various groupings including: solos, duos, trios, quartets and as a quintet.

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Watch this behind the scenes video of Rafael Bonachela’s CincoVIDEO 1 

Watch this behind the scenes video of triple bill, Bonachela/Nankivell/LaneVIDEO 2

Watch this preview video of Rafael Bonachela’s CincoVIDEO 3

Watch this advertisement video of triple bill, Bonachela/Nankivell/LaneVIDEO 4


Read about what to expect in Bonachela/Nankivell/Lane in this CHEAT SHEET.

Read interview with Rafael Bonachela, How the number five inspired Rafael Bonachela’s Cinco. Written by Sydney Dance Company – 19 March 2019.

Read interview with Bianca Spender, Bianca Spender on designing for dance. Written by Sydney Dance Company – 9 April 2019.

Read Broadsheet feature articleSydney Dance Company is about to kick off its 50th celebrations, written by Che-Marie Trigg – March 2019.

Read Dance Australia’s feature articleSydney Dance Company: Bonacela, Nankivell, Lane, written by Geraldine Higginson – April 2019.

Read The F’s feature article, Sydney Dance Company is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary in a massive way with Mardi Gras and Cinco, written by James Banham – March 2019.  

Read Vogue Australia’s feature article, Bianca Spender’s dreamy costumes for Sydney Dance Company, written by Lucie Clark – March 2019.

Read The Daily Telegraph reviewSydney Dance Company’s 50th anniversary debut shows what heights the human body can hit, written by Elizabeth Fortescue – March 2019.

Read Sydney Morning Herald reviewSydney Dance Company: Virtuoso display thrills with speed and stillness, written by Jill Sykes – March 2019.

Read Daily ReviewSDC Triple bill review, written by Martin Portus – March 2019.

Read Limelight reviewSeason One (Sydney Dance Company), written by Jo Litsen – March 2019.

Read Audrey Journal reviewAbsolutely Electrifying, written by Elissa Blake – March 2019.

Read The Plus Ones reviewBonachela / Nankivell / Lane: An urgent and passionate triptych of dance, written by Eric Qian – March 2019.

Read Bachtrack’s reviewSydney Dance Company launches its 50th year, written by Chantal Nguyen – March 2019.

Read The F’s reviewCinco by Rafael Bonacela and Sydney Dance Company: Contemporary dance at its best, written by James Banham – April 2019.


Listen to interview with Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela and former company dancers Sheree Da Costa and Shane Carroll, Sydney Dance Company turns 50, presented by Michael Cathcart – March 2019.

Listen to the music used for Rafael Bonacela’s Cinco, Alberto Ginastera’s String Quartet No. 2


Warm up Class Task

Aim: To warm up the body using different parts of your body and varying levels of movement.

– As a class, discuss the table (below) and individually explore ways you may move for each instruction.

Number Instruction
One Move without bending your elbows.
Two Move without bending your knees.
Three Move without bending at the hip joints.
Four Move without using the right side of your body.
Five Move without using the left side of your body.

– Walk through the space exploring different floor pathways (curved and angular). Imagine you have paint on your feet and your aim is to cover the whole floor with your paint.

– As the teacher calls out the numbers 1-5 at varying intervals, adapt your travelling movement following the associated instruction.

– As a class discuss different levels (low, medium and high) and explore different ways you might move through the space at these different levels.

– Resume walking around the space exploring different floor pathways and as the teacher calls out a number and a level, adapt your movement following the associated instruction and level.

For example: When they call out low and two, continue travelling through the space at a low level without bending your knees.

– As a class, discuss the task and share what you found most challenging.

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Creating a Duo Phrase – Task in pairs

Aim: To create a phrase based on the concept of ‘five’.

Resource: Print out of Pentagon Stimulus resource included here.

Note: This task involves three different components including: a 2-dimensional pentagon shape (which will inform the direction of your movements), five body regions (which inform the body part that will move) and elements of dance (level, dimension and movement quality).

– As a class, read through the Exploring Stimulus and Pentagon Stimulus resources, discussing how Rafael Bonachela used the concept of ‘five’ in his choreographic tasks.

– Discuss different pentagon shapes including regular (all sides are equal length and all internal angles are equal) and irregular (sides are different lengths and internal angles are not equal), drawing these on the board.

– Imagine you are standing inside a pentagon drawn on the ground. Each of pentagon’s five angles (points) are assigned a number from 1-5.

– Discuss the human figure in the Pentagon Stimulus resource and how each body region has been assigned a number from 1-5 (including head, two arms and two legs). Also discuss the table of randomly generated codes. For each movement, a pentagon number has been provided (representing the direction of the movement) and a body region number (representing the body part which will be predominantly moving).

– Individually and using the table, create five movements, each moving the associated body part towards the associated direction.

For example: movement one in the table includes the numbers Pentagon 5 and Body Region 4. This directs you to move your left arm towards the front left corner of the room.

– In pairs, perform your phrase for each other. Learn your partner’s phrase and combine them together to create a phrase consisting of 10 movements.

– As a class, discuss various elements of dance including level, dimension and movement quality – and how these can be used to manipulate a movement.

– In pairs and using the table, manipulate each of your movements using a different element of dance.

– As a class, share your phrases with each other and reflect on the choreographic process.

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Before the Performance

Included below are a series of questions to discuss with your class before attending the theatre.

  1. What is contemporary dance?

Contemporary dance is a broad and versatile genre of dance that draws on classical ballet, modern dance and sometimes other popular dance forms such as hip hop. Although there are contemporary dance techniques that can be studied (such as Cunningham or Graham), a lot of choreographers aren’t restricted by a set of steps or a particular movement vocabulary. Essentially, contemporary dance is creative. It is this creativity and openness that makes it a dance genre which many young people can enjoy and participate in.

To see how broad contemporary dance can be, below are some examples to share with your class. The selected video clips come from a range of Australian and international contemporary dance companies and demonstrate the versatility of contemporary dance. All these examples are performed in a theatre, but contemporary dance can also be site specific, meaning that the dance is created specifically for a space, such as a gallery or a park.

  • Australian Dance Theatre (Australia) – Be Your Self  (5:41 mins)
  • Chunky Move (Australia) – Assembly (4:02 mins)
  • Nederlands Dans Theatre 2 (Netherlands) – Cacti (1:51 mins)
  • Wayne McGregor | Random Dance (UK) – Far (5:28 mins)
  • Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui & Damien Jalet (Belgium) – Babel (4:14 mins)
  • Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (Taiwan) – Cursive II (1:47 mins)
  1. Does contemporary dance tell a story?

Unlike many ballets and plays, a lot of contemporary dance does not communicate a narrative with a beginning, middle and end. Most choreographers will explore a concept or theme through dance but the way this concept is communicated to audiences varies greatly between choreographers. Some contemporary dance is abstract, which means the movements aren’t used to directly communicate the concept to the audience.

  1. What is choreography?

Choreography is the making, developing and structuring of movements to create a new dance work.

  1. What does a choreographer do?

Rafael Bonachela is the choreographer of Cinco. A choreographer makes dance by creating movement and structuring them into a meaningful whole. At Sydney Dance Company, Rafael Bonachela works closely with the Company dancers to create the movement by giving them choreographic tasks or by directing their bodies in space. Rafael Bonachela then selects, develops, shapes, refines and structures the movements generated into a complete work. Here are some examples of Rafael Bonachela’s Sydney Dance Company choreography:

  1. Do we need to understand contemporary dance to enjoy it?

Contemporary dance may engage audiences emotionally and intellectually. Sometimes the pure joy of dance and the awe of watching incredible dancers performing on stage is enough. Each audience member will have their own experience as they watch the dance. There is no expectation that you and your class will understand the production in a way that you may a ballet or play with a narrative, but we hope that you can engage with the work in your own way.

  1. What is Cinco about?

You may want to discuss Cinco with your class, using the Describing the Work RESOURCE.

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After the Performance

  1. Suggested Questions for Discussion

Write down your initial thoughts after watching Cinco. You may wish to brainstorm this as a group or in pairs, using the questions below:

  • How did the performance make you feel? What specifically about the performance made you feel this way?
  • What did you enjoy the most about the performance and why?
  • How would you describe the performance to someone who hasn’t seen it (consider the dancers’ actions, ways they were grouped, their costumes and the lighting used)?
  • What were you thinking about while you were watching the performance?
  • Was the performance what you were expecting to see? Why or why not?
  • Have you changed your mind about what dance is after seeing this performance?
  1. Dance Analysis using the Elements of Dance

As a class, brainstorm points and describe Cinco using the elements of dance (action, space, time, dynamics and relationships). You may wish to use the examples provided in the Describing the Work resource.

  1. Written Response – Cross Curricular Link: English

Ask students to use the class brainstorm to compose a:

  • newspaper or magazine review
  • poem
  • imaginative recount
  • creative story
  1. Creative Response – Cross Curricular Link: Visual Art & Media

Ask students to reflect on how Cinco made them feel and to respond by creating a:

  • drawing or painting
  • photograph
  • sculpture
  • collage
  • mood board

Divide students into pairs and ask them to discuss how Cinco made them feel and how they chose to communicate this through their artworks. Encourage students to ask questions about their partner’s artwork (for example, the reason for their colour choice).

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