Rafael Bonachela has marked his 10th anniversary as artistic director of Sydney Dance Company in 2018. As if to commemorate this milestone, he has programmed the company's first full-length work since 2012. ab[intra] opened at the Canberra Theatre on Thursday.
Translated from Latin, ab[intra] means "from within" and the company's dancers engaged in an extended period of improvisation with their ideas, thoughts and feelings, written on sticky notes, used to inspire and create the work with Bonachela's guidance.
Two of the featured dancers in the production are Charmene Yap, 32, and Nelson Earl, 21.
Yap has been with the company for nine years - "I'm a veteran," she said.
She said that in the production she performed "a big duet" with Davide Di Giovanni, who's in his second year with the company, "that came from the idea of 'awkward encounters'.''
This new collection of group work as well as duets and solos allowed dancers to focus more on their personal interests, she said.
Born in Singapore to a Malaysian family, Yap grew up in Sydney and began dancing classes - focusing on ballet - when she was seven. She continued through high school, but didn't consider it as a career ("I was going to study architecture").
A teacher encouraged her to pursue dance and she gained entry to the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, which included six months on exchange in New York.
"It opened my eyes to contemporary dance," Yap said.
After graduation she freelanced with companies around Australia and in 2010 met Bonachela. She auditioned for him and became part of Sydney Dance Company. On the side, she said she was studying interior design.
Since she is now in her 30s, the question of how long she would keep dancing was "up in the air", though she acknowledged she was in the later stage of her career.
"Generally it's quite physical and generally people don't go over 35."
Nelson Earl, 21, said Yap's last words were "a severe understatement" because of the demands of the art.
Now in his third year with the company, Earl said he had two solos in ab[intra], one based on the idea of "never seeing again" and being more physically contained and gestural, the other a more physical and expansive work that covers more of the space.
He grew up in Sydney and began dancing when he was 10 ("my brother and sister were doing it and I felt left out"). Earl attended the Newtown High School of the Performing Arts and after graduating went into his preprofessional year at Sydney Dance Company. His big break was not long in coming, when a problem came up during the dance piece De Nova.
"One of the dancers got injured and I was called up to help with the national tour."
After that he underwent a three-month apprenticeship and then became a full-time member of the company. Asked how long he would continue in dance, he said, "As long as I can."
Sydney Dance Company's ab [intra] is on at the Canberra Theatre until September 1. canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.