Frame of Mind – Secondary

Education Resources


Frame of Mind was born from my own experience of wanting to be in two places at once. Both places were equally important to me. Whatever decision I made would not be able to satisfy the complexity of my desires, nor the needs of those around me.

Human beings are complex in our psychological states. The way we express ourselves emotionally and verbally are simple solutions to a much larger process. For cases of the heart, concrete communication becomes a way to structure our thoughts, but we must be careful not to leave behind the complex emotional information, which makes us who we are at any given moment.

In many ways, Frame of Mind is a work which engages with the aspiration we all have, to engage and be understood without the need for words: to be held, supported, confronted, lifted and guided by those we hold dear. Frame of Mind is an acknowledgement of our emotional lives, our vulnerability, our empathy, our fragility and our strength. It explores and reflects on different emotional states that the dancers and myself have experienced.

The impulse to feel, experience and understand a dance work in the theatre should be an individual one – beginning in the heart and contemplated in your mind. It is your ‘frame of mind’ which colours your world, and the same should be true of art. When all explanations have been exhausted and you find yourselves outside of definition but immersed in sensation – the only thing left is to feel.

My immense gratitude goes to those that have helped create this work, my collaborators in design and construction, the team at Sydney Dance Company and the inimitable dancers who give their all every time.

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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Frame of Mind was a personal exploration for Rafael and the dancers. The original composition by Bryce Dessner inspired an emotional response within Rafael who reflected about his recent experiences and memories. The concept for Frame of Mind was developed out of this response.

Initially, Rafael guided the dancers through reflective tasks relating to this theme to generate new movement ideas. He began the process by asking the dancers to map out their individual personal and emotional journey they had experienced in 2014, identifying their various states of mind (‘frames of mind’). These thoughts and emotions were used as stimulus to create base movements or gestural phrases.

The dancers were then asked to stand in a circle and individually share their base movement phrases to Dressner’s composition. Simultaneously, the other dancers were asked to respond through improvisation. Often lasting over 30 minutes, these improvisations provided each dancer time to explore the movement and theme. This time also allowed them to break their physical habits and challenge themselves to move in new ways.

As part of the choreographic process Rafael took the original movement created by the dancers and considered how to alter, enhance and embellish it. He altered the groupings of dancers and offered the dancers new concepts to layer on top of their original movement.

Creating Duos – ‘frame of mind’ Duet

Rafael asked the dancers to take their phrases created from the improvisation task and work with a partner. The dancers were tasked to communicate with each another and enter each other’s ‘frame of mind’. This resulted in personal and intimate duos where movements interconnect and influence the other’s physical response, creating a detailed and intimate relationship between two dancers.

Creating Trios

In trios, the dancers were asked to create a phrase based on building structures and architectural patterns that support and frame one another. They were tasked to explore how they could use their limbs to create abstract shapes and incorporate various levels.

Each trio features fast-paced and complex partnering with the lifting and shifting of dancers through space. For most of the trios, two of the dancers connect as they twist and weave in and out of each other, as the remaining dancer support or ‘frame’ the action on the stage.

Creating Group Movement

Rafael took one movement from each of the individual dancer’s phrases and combined them to create a whole group phrase. He used many choreographic devices to embellish and develop the original movements including symmetrical and asymmetrical movements, unison, repetition, canon, group formations and changes of directions and levels. This section, performed at the beginning of the work, explores the group’s ‘frame of mind’ and positions the audience as viewers of a picture frame.

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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.



Creating a Solo Phrase – Individual Task

Aim: To create a movement phrase based on students’ ‘frame of mind’.

– Ask students to spread out in the space with a pen and piece of paper.

– Ask students to individually reflect on their experiences over the last couple of months. What changes or events have taken place in their routine, family, school or other activities? Ask students to write these down in a timeline.

– Ask students to carefully consider those changes, thinking about how they felt throughout their experiences. They may have experienced feelings of happiness, frustration, sadness, surprise, shock, etc. Ask students to write out their emotional responses. Invite students to share their responses with the group.

– Ensure students are warmed and ready to move.

– Spread students throughout the space and ask them to individually create a gesture or movement for each ‘feeling’ they documented earlier.

– Ask students to individually incorporate choreographic devices and consider the elements of dance to choreograph transitions between each gesture or movement to create a phrase.

– Share student phrases with each other, two or three students at a time. Use various pieces and styles of music.

– Ask students watching to reflect on the emotion/feeling they are observing. Does the different music influence the perception the audience has of the dancer’s emotions? How might this compare to what the dancer was feeling/thinking?


Creating a Duo Phrase – Task in Pairs

Aim: To create a duo movement phrase by combing two solo movement phrases.

– In pairs, ask students to share their solo phrases with each other and combine them to create one extended phrase. Ask students to consider how they can link the phrases to make one conversation between two dancers. For example, if one partner lifts their leg is there a way in which the other can assist? Also, remind students to incorporate choreographic tools to vary their dynamics.

– Share student phrases with each other, two or three pairs at a time, using various pieces and styles of music.

– Ask students watching to reflect on their peer’s use of choreographic tools. What did they notice? What emotion/feeling did they observe through the movements?


Creating a Group Phrase – Task in Groups of Four

Aim: To create a group phrase by linking two duos together.

– In groups of four, ask students to create a group phrase by considering how the two duos can work together to provide a ‘frame’ for the other. Encourage students to search for opportunities to link and interconnect the two duos and ask them to incorporate the following choreographic tools:

• Canon
• Change of direction
• Change of level
• Asymmetry
• Symmetry
• Unison
• Repetition
• Group formations

– As a class, share student phrases with each other, two groups at a time.

– Ask students to individually reflect on their role with their group’s choreographic process, as well as review the group phrases performed by other students.

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Suggested Questions for Discussion

  1. Write down your initial thoughts after watching Frame of Mind. You may wish to brainstorm this as a group. Use the questions below 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 Frame of Mind with someone else’s.
  • Did you observe any choreographic tools used throughout the work such as symmetrical and asymmetrical movements, unison, repetition, canon, group formations and changes of directions and levels? How did these impact on your interpretation of the work?
  • How did the different aspects (movement, music, set, lighting and costumes) impact your experience?
  • After considering all the aspects above, would you recommend the performance to someone else?
  1. Discuss your understanding of the phrase ‘frame of mind’. You can use the following words or definitions to support your brainstorm and discussion:
  • Psychological state, attitude or mood at a specific time (Encarta Dictionary)
  • Mood and how it influences attitude
  • Mental state
  • Temper
  • Attitude
  • Feelings
  1. Watch this video interview with Rafael Bonachela discussing his choreographic inspiration and creative process for Frame of Mind. After brainstorming the phrase ‘frame of mind’ and watching the video interview with Rafael, initiate a group discussion using the following questions:
  • Are there any connections between Rafael’s choreographic inspiration and your group brainstorm about ‘frame of mind’? What are they or how do they differ?
  • Can the essence of Rafael’s choreographic inspiration and creative process be observed in Frame of Mind? Why or why not?

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