ONE of the world’s most sought after dance choreographers believes Australian audiences have connected with his work better than anywhere else.

Renowned Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman’s work Cacti has been included in the Sydney Dance Company’s first program of 2016.

 Cacti features in the company’s two-part program Counter Move alongside Rafael Bonachela’s Lux Tenebris.

“Alexander is a choreographer I’ve known for a few years… and when I took the role at the Sydney Dance Company I knew immediately audiences here would just love his work,” the Sydney Dance Company artistic director told the Star Observer.

“The humour, the wit, very intelligent work and very funny and tightly choreographed, it just had it all.”

Cacti is one of Ekman’s most popular and successful pieces and has been commissioned by more than 45 leading dance companies around the world.

The piece is composed of 16 dancers who are standing — seemingly trapped — on oversized Scrabble tiles. While a string quartet plays, and spoken recordings give tongue-in-cheek narration of the action, the dancers run, fall, writhe and try to escape their invisible prisons. Eventually, and this is the important bit, they each acquire a cactus.

Alexander Ekman. Photo: Peter Greig

Alexander Ekman. (Photo: Peter Greig)

Bonachela confessed that as a choreographer he was not able to incorporate humour into his work, unlike Ekman’s piece.

“Alexander Ekman is not afraid of the word entertainment. In fact he speaks on the pretentiousness of art critics,” he said.

“It’s a very accessible, really tightly choreographed, fantastic work. I’m just in awe of the dancers, the musicians… and of his craft.”

Sydney Dance Company Cacti rehearsals. Photo: Peter Grieg

Sydney Dance Company Cacti rehearsals. (Photo: Peter Grieg)

Barcelona-born Bonachela, who is openly gay, has a lot on his plate at the dance company, including creating the annual program, representing the company in public and choreographing his own work.

“From day one, I felt at home. I came here as a guest eight years ago… landing in Sydney and taking up the role of artistic director of Sydney Dance Company is a wonderful experience,” he said.

“It’s never easy, there’s always challenges, we work in the arts… but it’s an absolute treasure.”

Sydney Dance Company Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela. Photo: Peter Greig

Sydney Dance Company Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela. Photo: Peter Greig

CounterMove opens in Sydney on February 26 and will tour the country’s major cities and regional centres.

Bonachela said he learned to control his nerves ahead of opening night so that he was “not hysterical”, but he was excited to share the new program with the audiences.

“Our best collaboration is with our audience,” he said.

Lux Tenebris — the Latin term for light and darkness — will make its debut during CounterMove. The 40-minute show features the full ensemble of Sydney Dance Company dancers and is lit by award-winning Australian designer Ben Cisterne.

Bonachela admitted that while he didn’t have the concept mapped out for Lux Tenebris to begin with, he knew he wanted to work with composer Nick Wales to create an electronic soundscape.

“What I first had was a very strong instinct and a strong feeling about how I wanted the music to sound and how I wanted the space the music would inhabit to feel,” he said.

“I didn’t know it would be light and darkness… I just had a feeling.”

CounterMove Sydney season:
Venue: Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay, Sydney
Dates: February 26 to March 12

For information on the national tour click here.

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