Orb (Sydney Dance Company)

9 May 2017 | 3:36 pm | Fiona Cameron

"An aerobic display, requiring top fitness from the dancers."

The beautiful people turned out in force for the opening night of Sydney Dance Company's latest production, Orb. This program of world premieres offered two newly commissioned works of staccato intensity, each distinct from the other yet innately linked in their abstract expressionism.

The ensemble performing Full Moon, created by guest artists and Cloud Gat 2 artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung, explores notings of balance and equilibrium.

The quality of the movement was not overly technical, but minimalist, sparce and repetitive yet still requiring the performers' complete focus - a definite mental challenge and quite hard on the body.

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Watching Full Moon conjured a feeling of being outside in nature, watching leaves and a glorious red blossom being tumbled about by the wind. Composer Lim Giong says in the program notes that the Moon, like the universe, is unpredictable and ever-changing, and I this is indeed a neat summation of the work.

Act Two, Ocho, from choreographer Rafael Bonachela, is something of a departure from Bonachela's usual style. Instead of his familiar sensual approach, where the bodies on stage are orchestrated in flowing, expressive lines, this work explores a darker, hard-edged, almost dystopian aesthetic.

The stark set was reminiscent of the corner of a vast, brutalist, industrial edifice, into which was set a lone plate glass shop window with the dancers as mannequins. In the early section of the work, the intense score, by Nick Wales, was quite difficult to access until you became absorbed in the performance's unfolding and unravelling emotions.

Ocho was an aerobic display, requiring top fitness from the dancers. It was physical, aggressive, but exhilarating as the ensemble threw themselves around and at each other.

The counterpoint of some welcome warmth came from the Rrawun Maymuru, a Yolngu songman from East Arnhem Land, whose contribution managed to speak to the humanity of the dancers on the stage, while also emphasising the hardness of the desolate urban landscape.

Those seeking an explicit narrative thread may feel challenged by this abstract performance. But, there are far richer rewards here than merely a story. Sometimes contemporary dance is about the movement and nothing more. Sometimes it's enough to have a performance build, ebb, flow and come to a beautiful resolution.

Sydney Dance Company presents Orb till 13 May at Roslyn Packer Theatre, 17 — 20 May at Arts Centre Melbourne & 25 — 27 May at Canberra Theatre Centre.