“Dance is one of the most powerful physical experiences that anyone can have, says Rafael Bonachela, artistic director of the Sydney Dance Company. “It transcends everything. No matter where you’re from, you can dance together – even if you don’t speak the same language.
“I’ve always felt that dance brings us together.”
It’s fair to say Bonachela is passionate about the holistic power of movement. It's an art form the Barcelona-born dancer and choreographer wants to share, which is why Sydney Dance Company runs a regular roster of 65 open dance classes each week across a range of styles, from ballet to theatre jazz.
“Whether you want to be a professional dancer or not, there is a benefit of dancing,” he says. “Being aware of your body, gaining confidence in your body and who you are. You’re putting your body through a physical activity that also has creativity and rhythm to it – it’s not just running behind a ball.”
Bonachela’s advice for anyone visiting an open class for the first time is straightforward: don’t be shy. “It can be a little bit daunting, but everyone is there to have a good time,” he says. “Everyone is there to learn. Everyone is there because they love dancing. No one is there to judge you.” Given his aim is to encourage people who are totally unfamiliar with the world of dance, he always makes sure that newcomers are “well looked after”.
Sydney Dance Company recently moved to a new, temporary location in Ultimo while Walsh Bay's Pier 4, the company’s home since 1985, is redeveloped as part of the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct. Construction is due to finish in 2020. Bonachela is looking forward to seeing the refurbishment completed.
“It was beautiful to be working in this historic wharf on the harbour,” he says. “When I first came here 10 years ago, I couldn’t believe it.” He talks poetically – as only an artist could – about the “vibrancy to the light” and the sound of the nearby water at the company’s old home. “There are not many places like that in the world where you’re on the ocean … dancing every day,” he says.
Fortunately, there’s plenty to love about Sydney Dance Company’s new “state-of-the-art, custom-built” studios in Ultimo, just 10 minutes from Central and Broadway. Locals have been dropping in, says Bonachela, and the “tribe” from Walsh Bay has embraced the new space and all its mod cons: sprung floors, new mirrors and ballet bars, and importantly, for high-tempo classes, improved airflow and air-conditioning.
“It’s a very welcoming place with great energy,” he says. Bonachela has been busy exploring the new neighbourhood. Chinatown is “two steps” away, as are the food precincts of Kensington Street and Spice Alley. As an artist, he’s often drawn to the White Rabbit in Chippendale. “It’s an iconic and wonderful art gallery,” he says.
Sydney Dance Company
355 Wattle Street, Ultimo