Adelaide Festival 2021 review: Impermanence

Who: Sydney Dance Company and Australian String Quartet

Where: Festival Theatre

When: Final show Thursday 11 March 8.30pm

Tickets: here

Sydney Dance Company performers in Impermanence (image via Adelaide Festival Centre)

It may feel like a lifetime ago, but it was only in mid-2019 that composer Bryce Dessner (of The National) and choreographer Rafael Bonachela (Artistic Director of the Sydney Dance Company) met in Paris to begin developing a new joint work. Both deeply affected by the fire at the Notre Dame cathedral and, later, by the devastating bushfires of Australia’s summer of 2019-2020, they created a reflection on the impermanence of the world around us. As Bonachela explains in a pre-show address, not only physical structures, but human relationships and even life on our planet as we know it, can all be fleeting and ephemeral. In this context, the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed performance of Impermanence for a full year, is just another example of how situations and understandings can be suddenly turned upside down and forever changed.

At the Adelaide Festival Centre, Dessner’s composition is impeccably performed by the Australian String Quartet, who sit on the stage, integrated into the dancers’ landscape. The set and costumes are minimalist, almost stark. Bonachela’s choreography favours circular motifs, perhaps reflecting a chaotic, ever-changing cycle of life and being. The dancers are all excellent, exquisitely controlled as they twist and spiral around themselves, each other, and the stage. There is a purity and abstraction to their movement, which does not lend itself to easily accessible narratives, though gestures to catastrophic fires and the promise of a new dawn are hinted at through the lighting design. The performance closes with a solo set to a poignant song by Anohni and adapted by Dessner, the first time we hear a human voice: “I need another world, this one’s nearly gone.”

Impermanence presents a beautiful, absorbing union of music and movement by performers at the top of their game.

4.5/5 stars

Matilda Handsley-Davis

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