The Sydney Dance Company will present one performance only of the magical production The Land of Yes and the Land of No at the Glasshouse this month. Amy Hollingsworth gives Jo Atkins an insight into the production through her role as Dance Director.
Amy, is your role with the Sydney Dance Company, and how long have you been involved with the company?
I’m Sydney Dance Company’s Dance Director and have been with the company since 2009. I am Australian born and bred, but worked in New Zealand and Europe for many years, before basing myself in London for 10 years, which is where I met and worked with Rafael Bonachela. We worked together as dancers, then as choreographer and muse, collaborating on many works, including in the original production of The Land of Yes & The Land of No. When Rafael took up the position of Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company, he invited me to return home to work alongside him as his Dance Director.
Please give us a brief history of the Sydney Dance Company …
Sydney Dance Company is Australia’s leading contemporary dance company and resides at the bustling arts precinct in Sydney’s Walsh Bay. Currently under the artistic leadership of renowned choreographer Rafael Bonachela, we present award-winning contemporary dance with music and design by some of the world’s foremost choreographers, composers and artists, for both domestic and international audiences.
Sydney Dance Company was founded in 1969 by dancer Suzanne Musitz. In the early 1970s, the organisation started growing its profile as The Dance Company (NSW). In the late ‘70s, the Artistic Director and Associate Director at the time, Australian choreographers Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon, championed the defining name change to Sydney Dance Company. Rafael Bonachela was appointed Artistic Director in 2009, giving birth to a new era in Australian contemporary dance. Since Rafael’s appointment, the company has toured around Australia and to Venice, Beijing, Germany, New York, Barcelona and London.
Tell us about the production, The Land of Yes and the Land of No …
The Land of Yes and The Land of No comes from Rafael’s interest in signs and how they direct our everyday lives in different ways; sometimes we don’t even notice, but we follow automatically. The impact on the decisions we make, the paths we take, the turning points, the risks and the adventures we embark upon. This is where the The Land of Yes and The Land of No begins.
In the process of creating the work, Rafael found that these everyday commands – for example, merge, diversion, one way – sparked memories, responses and emotions that resonate within our lives. Those memories and emotions became the soul and essence of The Land of Yes and The Land of No. The work is constructed in sections, each using a different sign or instruction as a start point. Exploration around the literal, the graphic and the emotional meaning of each sign lead to a movement repertoire which draws on any or all of these layers of meaning at any one time.
Rafael’s work is abstract, so while the performers are drawing on the emotional responses and memories, they are sharing these and trying to evoke a feeling rather than depicting a ‘story’.
How many people are involved with the production?
There are 16 dancers in total, as well as Rafael and myself and our technical team of 5, who are out on the road touring the production. The original creative team was Rafael, composer Ezio Bosso, the production design team Alan MacDonald (Design Director), Guy Hoare (Lighting) and Theo Clinkard (Costumes), and we are also supported by our administrative team back at our base in Sydney.
The work is a beautiful showcase for the dancers. It is made up of a series of solos, duos, trios and larger group segments, so audiences get to see all the exceptional dancers shine in a variety of roles.
Visually stunning, the music for the piece has also been described as amazing. Who was the composer – and how much work was involved with interpreting the score?
The music was composed by Rafael’s long-time collaborator, Ezio Bosso, whom he has worked with on a number of previous Sydney Dance Company productions, including 360° (2008), We Unfold (2009), 6 Breaths (2010), and LANDforms (2011).
Although Rafael and Ezio had worked together before the collaboration on The Land of Yes and The Land of No, this process was the first time the music and the choreography was created simultaneously. In their earlier collaborations, Rafael used music that was already existing. At the outset of the creation Rafael, Ezio, myself and the other dancers spent three weeks in a studio together doing research and development. We explored and shared the ideas, emotional responses and memories that were triggered by examination of signs that we encountered. At the end of the three weeks, Rafael, myself and the dancers began creating and Ezio began composing.
The Sydney Dance Company will also be presenting a ‘Sneak Peek’ for Port Macquarie audiences at the Glasshouse. What does this show comprise?
For the sneak peek, we’ll be inviting Port Macquarie locals to sit in on some of the performance-day tech run of The Land of Yes and The Land of No – this means Sneak Peek guests will be watching a real rehearsal. Their experience begins with watching the second half of the dancers’ daily technique class, then they have a Q&A session with me. After the Q&A, the audience have the unique experience of watching the beginning of the technical rehearsal of the show.
This story was published in issue 80 Greater Port Macquarie Focus