There are certain caveats that need to be accepted when viewing the end-of-year performance by a Pre-Professional Year cohort. Not least of all is the lack of age diversity. There’s plenty of endurance, energy, agility, and talent. But with that comes an understandable lack of experience and wisdom, those pre-emptive nuances of movement, almost imperceptible admittedly, which then turns a capable dancer into a truly great performer. 

Through the past year, an SDC Pre-Professional Year dancer is immersed in an environment set to cultivate an inquisitive mind and sophisticated movement.

With Linda Gamblin, Sydney Dance Company’s Head of Training, at the helm, the Pre-Professional Year is a one or two year program providing both industry experience and a vocational qualification.

Pre-Professional Year dancers work with numerous national and international contemporary choreographers and industry specialists each year who offer a variety of movement philosophies and techniques to enhance training and development.

With such a huge 2022 class, stage time for the performers at this graduation event leads to a crowded presentation. But such is the expectation, as the audience is filled with proud parents, grandparents, siblings, peers, partners, and reviewers hoping to spot the coming years’ brightest talent. 

This year’s presentation certainly did however, serve a diversity of performance, lavish enough to keep the audience enthralled for the entire show. 

Opening with Sam Coren’s, arrival in s.a.r.s.h. which takes a futuristic view of recreation in the year 3045. With a dystopian undertone, the dancers move from one movement to another (including a nostalgic nod to retro featuring stylised disco). The piece did skirt the cliche of overarching novelty by including neon luminous costuming lit with ultraviolet lighting. While impressive, the almost overuse could well have overshadowed the performance for some. 

IVY by Melainie Lane is well suited to this end-of-year celebration, as the genre crosses boundaries, even perhaps introducing vestiges of Irish dance sans hornpipe, almost harking back to the richness of movement for purely ritualistic purposes.

But most definitely the highlight of the night comes just before the Interval, as two standout performers stage an excerpt from Variation 10, choreographed by company artistic director Rafael Bonachela. With synergy and grace expected from performers with far greater experience, Ronan Armstrong and Carmelita Buay undertake this duet with such astonishing rhythm and tempo, it should have garnered a standing ovation. Towering over his cohorts, Armstrong’s height and strength of movement is impossible to ignore within the ensemble, but comes to the fore within a piece such as Variation 10.

After the break, Cloe Fornia’s Tout ce (‘-sa) reflects on the human form, straddling the divide between love, loss and loneliness. A reflection of sorts, of being together, but also apart. Feeling strong in some matters, while those around you might feel nothing at all. 

Finally, the elaborate We Have Been Here Before But Never Like This, constructed by the dancers themselves in collaboration with James O’Hara, breaks the mould with vocalising by the cast, and is performed with such vigour over 18 minutes, one wonders how long the entire company can continue with such intensity before collapsing due to exhaustion.

There is plenty of which to be optimistic when it comes to these performers, leading into the anticipation of seeing these dancers develop into disciplined practitioners, hopefully in future Sydney Dance Company productions. If there were to be disappointment, it continues to be in the shape of gender discrepancy, with male performers remaining in the minority (surprisingly in the current era of TikTok where all identities feature extensively in the dance stakes). 

Applications to the SDC PPY for 2023 are now closed, but email to enquire about submitting late applications or unexpected vacancies.

Reviewed from seat E 16, Bay 20 Carriageworks.

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Images: Daniel Boud