Sydney Dance Company’s Triptych is, appropriately, organised into three parts. It involves three dance sequences set to three contrasting works from prolific 20th-century composer Benjamin Britten. Yet the triptychs extend far beyond the obvious. At every turn, a sublime trinity of elements can be seen: costume, orchestra, dancers. Katie Noonan, French poetry, sexual tension. Gutsy double bass, passion, conflict.
These trios emerge, surge and intertwine, making an exciting work in which our senses are always engaged and almost always saturated. It's a dance work that’s not afraid to expose all the elements that make dance work. Triptych permits a cross-sectional view of the 17-strong string ensemble ACO2, alongside Katie Noonan's vocals, SDC artistic director Rafael Bonachela's choreography and fashion designer Toni Maticevski's costumes. In Triptych, the dancers are a mere part of the whole.
Of course, the dancers performing Bonachela’s choreography are dynamic and enchanting. Part one, Simple Symphony, begins with innocence and play; the dancers absorbing the upward energy from ACO2, which comprises the string section of the Australian Chamber Orchestra. It is quirky and quaint like children's play; a homage to fawns and forests and the Provençal. It ends with a hint of the sensuousness to come — extensions, then sculptural stillness, in which the women dancers counterbalance and lift as readily as the men. Here, Fiona Jopp exemplifies the modern female dance body – straddling litheness and strength like an Amazon or demigod.
Part two, Les Illuminations, is the cornerstone of the project. Katie Noonan arrives on stage with a voice seeming too pure at times to be human, and the dancers echo this otherworldliness with androgynous, knotted-seaweed costumes and cyborg-esque gestures. Les Illuminations is undoubtedly the highlight of Triptych, the music, voice and bodies moody and sexy.
The performers are riffing on the unhuman aspects of dance: too nuanced and perfect to be earthly, with a mastery of anti-gravity. Within this, there is a male-and-male duet. Of romance? Or fraternity? It’s beautifully muscular and sensuous, and with Maticevski’s costumes, it’s a trick for the eyes across assumed gender zones, and so satisfyingly sensuous, I thought I might be pregnant just from watching it.
With part three, Variation 10, the whole company converge on stage, and the brilliance of Maticevski's costumes is finally fully evident. Variation 10 is a never-before-seen work of Bonachela's, who describes this theme of Britten's "almost as if it were made to be danced". The dancers move quickly from grounded bodies to precarious suspensions. The repeated motifs performed by small groups are mesmerising.
Triptych may seem like three 'old' art forms gathered on stage — dance, opera, orchestra — but it will surprise you with how these elements are reimagined and made sexy.