Frame of Mind – Primary

Education Resources


Frame of Mind is choreographed by Rafael Bonachela with input from the Company dancers. It explores and reflects on different emotional states that the choreographer and the dancers have experienced. It is loosely structured in three sections, based on three tracks of music by Bryce Dessner, who is part of the well-known rock band – The National. Rafael describes the music as powerful, driven, alive, fierce and vivid. He has been inspired by how the music makes him feel and the memories it evokes for him.

The dance work is set in an empty room where dancers come and go, sharing their stories with each other and with us, the audience. There is a window through which we can see the passing of time as the light through the window, and in the room, brightens, warms and fades. Through the duration of the performance a series of days pass by, moving through the cycle of day and night. The choreography, music and lighting work together to give us a sense of time passing.

One of the ideas behind designing the set to resemble a room is that it ‘frames’ the dancers on the stage, making a connection to one of Rafael’s choreographic ideas. When creating some of the movement, Rafael asked the dancers to find different ways to frame their partners’ movements and body parts. He also explored one of the literal meanings of frame, asking the dancers to find different ways to support their partner in a movement phrase like ‘a structure that surrounds and supports something’.

Rafael created a mind map at the beginning of the process to explore different meanings and connections to the title – Frame of Mind. Some of these ideas were further explored while others were left behind. It is part of the choreographer’s job to make decisions regarding which ideas are most suitable for the dance work.

Rafael Bonachela

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Choreographer Rafael Bonachela

Designer Ralph Myers

Costume Design Realisation Aleisa Jelbart

Lighting Designer Benjamin Cisterne

Music Original compositions by Bryce Dessner 

Live Score Performed by Australian String Quartet

Dramaturgical Consultant Samual Webster


READ about the Company Dancers 


I’ve wanted to work with Rafael Bonachela ever since he took the reins of Sydney Dance Company, so I was thrilled when Rafael asked me to collaborate on a project with him. Rafael is an inspiring and expressive talker! After we met, and he discussed his ideas with me, he played me Bryce Dressner’s music and I was immediately struck by its emotional intensity and beauty.

When designing the set for a play or an opera, the words and narrative are my starting point for the set and costume design. In dance, you don’t have a text, so you rely much more on feelings and emotions. Listening to Rafael discuss how this music moved him and transported him to other places led me to my idea for this design – a melancholic memory room where you lose the sense of the passage of time.

Ralph Myers

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Two predominant sources of light allude to the passing of time. At times the light beds the space in naturalism, at others it abstracts away, mirroring the journey of the dance and music. A direct relationship between the visual elements of the work – movement, set and lights – sets the tone of the performance. Refined moments are lit in a simple, calculated and deliberate way, to heighten the emotion.

Benjamin Cisterne

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The music in Frame of Mind is an original composition by Bryce Dessner and in 2018, will be accompanied live by the Australian String Quartet.

In 2009, David Harrington asked me to write a piece for Kronos Quartet for a performance in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. I live just two blocks from the park and spend many mornings running around it. The park for me symbolizes much of what I love about New York, especially the diversity of Brooklyn with its myriad cultures and communities. My father’s family, Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia, also lived near the park for many years in the 1940s and 1950s before moving to Queens.

Aheym means ‘homeward’ in Yiddish, and this piece is written as musical evocation of the idea of flight and passage. As little boys, my brother and I used to spend hours with my grandmother, asking her about the details of how she came to America. She could only give us a smattering of details, but they all found their way into our collective imagination, eventually becoming a part of our own cultural identity and connection to the past.

Aheym eventually became the title track of my collaborative record with Kronos Quartet. The album features four of my original compositions performed by Kronos Quartet, three of which you will hear in Rafael Bonachela’s Frame of Mind.

Bryce Dessner

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For over 30 years, the Australian String Quartet has created unforgettable performances for national and international audiences. Dedicated to musical excellence with a distinctly Australian character, their purpose is to create chemistry and amplify intimacy through experiences that connect people with string quartet music.

From their home base at the University of Adelaide, Elder Conservatorium of Music, ASQ reaches out across Australia and the world to engage people with an outstanding program of performances, workshops, commissions and education projects. Their distinct sound is enhanced by a matched set of 18th century Guadagnini instruments, handcrafted by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini between c.1743 and 1784 in Turin and Piacenza, Italy. These precious instruments are on loan for exclusive use through the generosity of UKARIA.

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We have used the elements of dance (action, space, time, dynamics and relationships) to break down the production. As a lot of students will be seeing live contemporary dance for the first time, this may assist them in describing and understanding what they’re 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, jumps, walking

– Dancers gesture with their hands, arms and upper body throughout the dance work

– Dancers support and lift each other

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


 Space – Where?

– Dancers travel along diagonal pathways

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

– The walls of the set create a triangular space, framing the dance space

– Movements consume the entire space within the set


Time – When?

– Most of the movement is performed at a fast pace and is sometimes contrasted with slower movements performed in the solos and duos

– The movement is continuous, without many pauses or moments of stillness

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

– There are sections of choreography that are rhythmical and percussive, not necessarily connected to the timing of the music


Dynamics – How?

-The movement is strong, energetic and articulate

– There is a contrast in the dynamics between the group unison sections (which are sharp and strong) and the solos and duos (which are fluid and soft)


 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 is performed in various groupings including solos, duos, trios, and small and large groups

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Rafael Bonachela talks about his ideas and creative process behind Frame of Mind in this video, Frame of Mind: In Conversation with Rafael Bonachela (National Tour): VIDEO 1

Watch segments of Frame of Mind to music by the Australian String Quartet in this video, Rafael Bonachela’s ‘Frame of Mind’: VIDEO 2

Australian String Quartet violinist, Dale Barltrop, talks about his experience of performing Frame of Mind with Sydney Dance Company in this video, Behind the Scenes: ‘Frame of Mind’ with the Australian String Quartet: VIDEO 3


Read about what to expect at the Forever & Ever double bill in this CHEAT SHEET.

Read Rafael Bonachela’s blog about Frame of Mind, Inside Rafael Bonachela’s ‘Frame of Mind’, September 2018: BLOG 1

Read The Daily Review, Frame of Mind review (Sydney Dance Company), written by Martin Portus – March 2015.


  1. Emotions into movement

Write out a selection of emotions on cards and distribute them to your class. Some examples might include: happy, sad, excited, anxious, frustrated, surprised, relaxed, confused and brave. Ask your students to think about a time when they felt that emotion and how their body responded. The aim of this activity is not to act the emotion but find ways of embodying the feeling. It might be helpful to discuss and demonstrate ideas first. See below for some examples.

Emotion Dynamic Actions
happy strong, energetic, bouncy, upright jump, skip, turn, gallop
sad slow, slumped, heavy roll on the floor, crouch, drop, swing
angry fast, rigid, strong, direct stamp, kick, punch, shake

Ask students to create a phrase for their emotion, considering dynamics and actions and exploring individual body parts and gestures (not only whole-body movements). How might your hands express happiness or your feet express sadness?

  1. Music inspiring movement

Play various music tracks for your class which evoke different emotions and discuss how the music made them feel and what they are reminded of. Select the class’ favourite track and play it again and write students’ responses on the board. Questions to encourage group discussion might include:

– How does the music make you feel?
– Does it remind you of a place / a time / a person / an event?
– What colour would you give the music?
– How would you describe the music?
– Is the music soft/loud, fast/slow, lyrical/percussive etc.?

Ask your students to choose three words from the board to create a movement phrase. Encourage students not to act out the words but explore how movement can communicate the concept.

  1. Frame by frame

As a class, look at images of sports people which breakdown an action into multiple freeze frames (IMAGE example). As a class, replicate these freeze frames with your bodies. Afterwards, change the order of the freeze frame images and practice these movements in the new order.

Ask students to create a phrase which consists of eight individual movements that transition from a standing to a floor position, reaching the floor only on the eighth movement. For each movement, ask students to create different shapes and use different actions, body parts and movement qualities. Now reverse the order of the movements, transitioning from the floor to standing. Afterwards, randomly rearrange the order of movements so that the phrase transitions frequently between high and low-level movements.

  1. Partnering

Guide students through simple partnering activities such as counterbalances where they support each other’s weight. You can explore different points of contact such as:

– Palms of the hands, leaning forwards
– Back to back, leaning backwards
– Monkey grip, leaning backwards
– Shoulder to shoulder, leaning sideways

Ask students to create a movement phrase which uses smooth transitions between each of these counterbalances.

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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 particular movement vocabulary. Essentially, contemporary dance is creative. It is this creativity and openness that makes it the perfect dance genre for young people to engage with and participate in.

To see how broad contemporary dance can be, to the right 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, planning and structuring of movements to create a new dance.

  1. What does a choreographer do?

Rafael Bonachela is the choreographer of Frame of Mind. 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, edits, 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’d hope that you can engage with the work in your own way.

  1. What is Frame of Mind about?

You may want to discuss Frame of Mind with your class, using the About the Work RESOURCE.

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After the Performance

  1. Suggested Questions for Discussion

Write down your initial thoughts after watching Frame of Mind. 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?
  • What were you thinking about as 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 and describe Frame of Mind using the elements of dance (action, space, time, dynamics and relationships), summarising the discussion on the board. You may wish to use the examples provided in the Describing Frame of Mind resource.

  1. Written Response – Cross Curricular Link: English

Ask students to use the class brainstorm from Activity 2 (below-left) to write a:

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

Ask students to reflect on how Frame of Mind made them feel and ask them to respond by creating a:

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

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