"Very dark, almost tribal, sexual music, rather than cerebral."
From his office at Sydney Dance Company's Hickson Road headquarters, Artistic Director Bonachela makes it clear that the process of bringing his latest idea to life is an alchemical mix of inspiration, interaction and 'in the moment' invention. Given the Barcelona-born choreographer's record of presenting achingly passionate works (We Unfold, 2 One Another) the making of another work suffused with darkness might not seem surprising. However, from its creator's perspective, Lux Tenebris is most certainly a kind of departure.
"The last thing I created was a full evening of Benjamin Britten's music, which was very 20th century music, so I actually really felt like going into a much darker and electronic sonic world," he reveals.
"After about three weeks of backwards and forwards and just making sounds, it clicked; and the idea of light in darkness came very clearly to me."
Enter longtime collaborator, composer Nick Wales. "I was using all these little samples that had this kinda groove going. It was a little bit jungly, drum and bass; not literally, but it had that vibe," he explains. "When I played it to Raf he kinda just rolled his eyes and so I just turned up the distortion on everything and his eyes lit up."
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As Bonachela recalls it, "I had a real feeling about the music, a real instinct about the sound world I wanted to explore."
The pair began by evolving their palette, a process informed by words like "visceral and sudden twists and never knowing what's around the corner". Inevitably the creative juices flowed and the seed germinated. "After about three weeks of backwards and forwards and just making sounds, it clicked; and the idea of light in darkness came very clearly to me."
With an idea now formed around a central concept, Bonachela was then able to switch brains and put his more tactical, programmer's hat on. "As an Artistic Director I'm more interested in giving audiences contrasting flavours, rather than giving them an overall theme," he says.
To that end he decided to team Lux Tenebris with one of the company's more popular repertoire pieces, Alexander Ekman's Cacti. "Cacti has big orchestra music and a string quartet live on stage, so as much as I love string quartets I was like, I'm not going there," he quips.
If Ekman's piece is known for its humour (parodying modern art), Bonachela's is more poetic. Lux Tenebris literally means 'light in darkness' and as a result will delve into more psychological territory.
As Nick Wales says, "Raf always wants passion in what he does. Maybe it's the Spanish in him." For a composer this is clearly a great start point. "So, this one's aggressive," he adds. "Not so much for the sake of aggressive but there's references to urban, club music. Very dark, almost tribal, sexual music, rather than cerebral."