Theatre/Dance Review: De Novo

Acclaimed Sydney Dance Company premiered its new show, ‘De Novo’, to a sold out Her Majesty’s Theatre. It consists of 3 works, ‘Emergence’, ‘Fanatic’ and ‘Cacti’.

De NovoPresented by Sydney Dance Company
Reviewed 6 August 2015

Acclaimed Sydney Dance Company premiered its new show, De Novo, to a sold out audience at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Thursday night.

Comprised of three short, separate works, De Novo showcased creative pieces both different and complimentary to the overall bill.

Emergence was the first and longest piece (37 minutes) with choreography by Rafael Bonachela and featuring music by Nick Wales and Sarah Blasko. This opening Act came about through the choreographer’s desire to collaborate with the two named musical artists, and a fascination with the moment when something new is revealed after the moment two objects collide and impact one another. Bonachela has said that in the studio, dancers were given a giant cube with a tangle of elastic stretched through it and challenged to manoeuvre their way through, reacting to the slight resistance and stretch of the elastic. The effect was certainly well replicated in Emergence with the dancers engaging in continuous, fluid and elastic motion that flowed seamlessly from one motion to the next.

This piece utilised couplings of three dancers—two men and one woman— throughout, and the effect was as though the men were the bookends that the ballerina collided with and rebounded from. The emphasis was on sensual, languid, horizontal movement over more traditional powerhouse vertical dance, and the uniting force of this piece was the technical precision and timing demonstrated by the entire cast. Having recently seen another dance production by an overseas company who lacked this precision timing, it brought home the impact that solid technique has on the overall reception of a piece and its ability to impact an audience. The consensus at interval was that said audience were mightily impressed.

Act two consisted of the shorter Fanatic, and Cacti. Fanatic, choreographed by Larissa McGowan, was inspired by the Alien and Predator movies and was just a hoot. Featuring voiceovers from the movies and dancers impersonating the characters from both films, this was a kind of nod to nerds who unite on Youtube to discuss the brilliance and persevering nature of iconic films such as these. The grotesquery of movement as the three featured dancers turned into ‘aliens’ and the adaptation of the fight scenes from Predator, were pure genius. To be fair, this piece is better described as experimental physical theatre rather than pure dance, and it probably worked because it was short (only 15 minutes), but it was so original and great that you couldn’t help but love it.

In Cacti, everyone gets a Cactus! Choreographed by Alexander Ekman and developed for the Nederlands Dans Theatre 2 in The Hague, this piece was also quite experimental. Featuring spoken word, live musicians onstage (4 string instruments), and dance, this was a great production to finish on. Exploring the concept of collaboration in a slightly different way, this piece commenced with the notion of melding old world practices like yoga and martial arts, with new and emerging practices of the world such as personal training and selfies. It ended with an interpretation of a high-fashion photo shoot, something akin to an en mass Japanese running man, and envelopment of each cast member into the ‘human orchestra’.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable show. However, it does deviate from traditional dance productions considerably, so bare that in mind when deciding if this is for you. In terms of choreography, it was innovative and engaging, and the dancers were lithe, technically brilliant athletes. Highly recommended for any dance enthusiast looking for something a bit different.

Reviewed by Samantha Bond
Twitter: @sambond

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Season: 6-8 August
Duration: 2 hours (with interval)
Tickets: $27.50 – $60.00
Bookings: Book through


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