ab [intra]

Work by Rafael Bonachela

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



Sydney Dance Company’s ab [intra] opened to rave reviews in Sydney in 2018 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.




Choreography: Rafael Bonachela
Music: Original score by Nick Wales featuring Klātbūtne by Pēteris Vasks
Lighting design: Damien Cooper
Set and Costume design: David Fleischer

2022 Performances
Maison de la Danse, Lyon, France
16 – 19 March

Theatre Chaillot, Paris, France
23 March – 1 April

Le Théâtre Olympia d’Arcachon, Arcachon, France
7 April

Théâtre de Gascogne, Mont de Marsan, France
9 April

Roslyn Packer Theatre Walsh Bay, Sydney
2 – 11 June
Night at the Barracks, Manly (excerpt)
24 September

DanceX, Arts Centre Melbourne (excerpt)
20 – 22 October

2019 Performances
Festspielehaus, St Pölten, Austria
7 June

Kuopio City Theatre, Finland
12 – 13 June

Kuopio Music Centre, Finland
14 – 15 June

Łodź Grand Theatre, Poland
18 – 19 June

Grec Festival de Barcelona, Spain
2 – 4 July

2018 Performances
Roslyn Packer Theatre Walsh Bay, Sydney
14 – 26 May

Arts Centre Melbourne, Melbourne
30 May – 2 June

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

Media & Audience Reviews

★★★★ “… the bodies vibrate like so many sensitive chords in this choreography full of energy, sensations and expressive virtuosity.” – Theatre Online (France)

“…the spectacle of these very high-level dancers… is breathtakingly poetic and beautiful. The figures are sometimes acrobatic, the breaths are short and the skin sparkles with sweat, but what happens on stage is nevertheless, for a little over an hour, of an almost incomprehensible fluidity and softness. And the public, fascinated, applauds standing. Run there!” – Le Point (France)

“Breathtaking ensembles, oscillating between perfect synchronization and an explosion of primary instincts, punctuate this delicious whirlwind with perfectly mastered play of lights, in which it is impossible not to be caught up in.” – Arts in the City (France)

“Feelings unfold in great sweetness in this performance which seems both an ode to nature and to the best of mankind… this remarkable work by the Australian company, served by magnificent performers… reaffirms its universal dimension. The life-giving energy of beauty.” – La Croix (France)

“… the company has returned to France with this incandescent piece that takes contemporary dance to its very highest level.” – Unité et Diversité France

“★★★★ 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


ab [intra]: The Story From Within

Part One: Creative Process

Part Two: The Music

Part Three: The Dance

Discover More

"I proposed to start with a series of improvisations, experimenting is always an important part of the process. I asked the dancers to be in the moment with each other, to feel and listen to each other, to use their instinct, their impulses and visceral responses." - Rafael Bonachela

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"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, driving the work forward with the introduction of darker electronic and percussive passages, counterbalanced with visceral string textures." - Nick Wales

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"The way we have approached the space is minimal and raw. We’re exposing the theatre without any masking, and having the dancers in that space at all times. The main visual identity of the piece will be a large white dance floor – an island of sorts in the epic exposed space." - David Fleischer

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Cheat Sheet

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.

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 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, Bianca Spender and Toni Maticevski.

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.

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.