Sydney Dance Company

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Sydney Dance Company is one of Australia's most successful and well-known contemporary dance companies. Its performances have appeared on the great dance stages of the world, from the Sydney Opera House in Australia, to the Joyce Theatre in New York, the Grand in Shanghai and the Stanislavsky in Moscow.

Its dancers have left audiences breathless, it has presented Australian art to the world, and brought the world to Australia.

Actively creating and touring new work under the Artistic Directorship of Rafael Bonachela, the Company maintains an ensemble of 16 exceptional dancers. Programs of dance include works by Bonachela and by guest choreographers including Jacopo Godani, Alexander Ekman and Gideon Obarzanek, as well as collaborations with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and with composers 48nord and Ezio Bosso.

Sydney Dance Company has its origins in a group founded in 1969 by dancer Suzanne Musitz. Soon known as The Dance Company (NSW), from 1975-1976 the Company was directed by Dutch choreographer Jaap Flier, before the appointment of Australian choreographer Graeme Murphy in 1976. In 1979 Murphy and his partner Janet Vernon instituted the defining name change to Sydney Dance Company and proceeded to lead it for a remarkable 30 years. Murphy and his collaborators created work that enthralled audiences in Australia and in extensive international touring, including being the first western contemporary dance company to perform in the People’s Republic of China.

Sydney Dance Company has been led since 2009 by Spanish-born Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela. Over the past five years the Company has cemented its reputation as a creative powerhouse, with an acclaimed group of dancers presenting new work by Bonachela and other choreographers, designers, composers and musicians. The Company has expanded its reach into the towns and cities it visits with work for schools and local dancers.

Since 1985 the Company has been a resident of the purpose-built studios at The Wharf in Sydney’s Walsh Bay, minutes from the city’s famed Bridge and Opera House. Its studios offer the largest public dance classes in Australia, with nearly 80,000 attendances annually. In 2014 a Pre-Professional Year course was launched, offering students the chance to work with some of Australia’s most successful and award winning choreographers and educators.

Sydney Dance Company’s DancED program is a national initiative supporting dance education for all ages, through strategic curriculum relevant programs for primary and secondary students and career focused study for pre-professional dancers and university graduates. DancED connects schools, teachers and students to leading professionals in the dance industry, providing invaluable insight, opportunities and role models.


Sydney Dance Company was founded in 1969 as the dance-in-education group Ballet in a Nutshell by Suzanne Musitz (Davidson), later changing its name to Athletes and Dancers, and Dance Company (NSW). In 1979 the company was renamed the Sydney Dance Company by its new artistic director Graeme Murphy, who had joined the Dance Company (NSW) in 1976.

The success of Murphy's tenure as artistic director, with fellow dancer, collaborator and wife Janet Vernon, has been compared to the dancer and choreographer Jerome Robbins because of the way he and his company has marketed dance to a wider audience, and brought contemporary dance into a more commercial arena.

Part of Murphy's success has been his wide-ranging taste in music and the eclectic choices of musical accompaniment he has made for his dance works. The breakthrough work Some Rooms (1983), which received enormous acclaim, featured a selection of existing music by composers Keith Jarrett, Joseph Canteloube, Francis Poulenc, Benjamin Britten and Samuel Barber, whereas other works featured newly commissioned original music. Hate (1982) had a score by noted Australian composer Carl Vine, and his successful 1985 production Boxes featured original music by composer and musician Iva Davies, who was then the lead singer with popular Australian rock band Icehouse.

In May 2007, the company announced that Tanja Liedtke would be its new artistic director;[1] however on 17 August of that year Liedtke was accidentally killed in a traffic accident in the northern suburbs of Sydney[2]

In December 2007, Executive Director Noel Staunton launched the company's 2008 season, announcing three guest choreographers, Meryl Tankard, Rafael Bonachela and Aszure Barton, to create new works for the company. Bonachela was subsequently appointed the Company's new Artistic Director.

In December 2008, Foxtel signed a three-year sponsorship of the company involving special broadcasts and incorporating the company into subscription television programs Australia's Next Top Model and Project Runway Australia.[3]

In December 2009 Anne Dunn was appointed Executive Director of the Company.

Current Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela’s first commissioned work for the Company, 360°, was as a guest choreographer with the Company. Following his appointment in 2009 as Artistic Director he has premiered his new works we unfold (2009), 6 Breaths (2010), LANDforms (2011) and 2 One Another (2012); presented Australian premieres of his previous works Irony of Fate, Soledad, and The Land of Yes & The Land of No; and new commissions from guest choreographers Kenneth Kvarnstrom (Mercury 2009); Adam Linder (Are We That We Are 2010); Emanuel Gat (Satisfying Musical Moments 2010); and Jacopo Godani (Raw Models 2011).

Following a number of years of negotiation, in 2014 the Company announced it had been granted permission to perform William Forsythe's rarely performed 1993 work Quintett.[4] The work is set to Gavin Bryars' soulful Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet.

Since Rafael Bonachela’s appointment, the company has toured around Australia and to Venice, Beijing, Germany, New York, Barcelona, London and Guanajuato.

Dancers and choreographers[edit]

Sydney Dance Company has launched the careers of several highly successful Australian dancers and choreographers, including


  1. ^ Lawson, Valerie (4 May 2007). "Welcome to her brave new world". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 10 August 2010. 
  2. ^ Lloyd, Tim (17 August 2007). "Dance director killed". Adelaide Now. Retrieved 10 August 2010. 
  3. ^ Knox, David (15 December 2008). "A waltz with Sydney Dance Company". Retrieved 10 August 2010. 
  4. ^ "Sydney Dance Company 2015 season a series of big wins for Bonachela". Sydney Morning Herald. 16 September 2014. 

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