Spanish born choreographer Rafael Bonachela’s stellar career, both as a dancer and choreographer, began in Barcelona where at the age of seventeen he performed with Lanonima Imperial. He travelled to England, joining London’s legendary Rambert Dance Company in 1992 where he remained as a lead dancer and Associate Choreographer until 2005. It was Rafael’s commitment to concentrate on the creation of his own dance works that saw him move away from Rambert to form Bonachela Dance Company in 2006.
His dynamic and exciting work has resulted in commissions from companies around the world. Among them, Sydney Dance Company, which in 2008 commissioned Rafael’s first full length production, 360?, to premiere at Sydney’s CarriageWorks. Less than six months later, Rafael’s appointment as Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company made headlines in the dance world and began a new era in Australian contemporary dance. His first work, we unfold, launched Rafael’s role as Artistic Director and literally became an unfolding of a new Sydney Dance Company.
Rafael Bonachela describes himself as a ‘movement junkie’ and the exploration and experimentation of pure movement is his motivation. In addition to his own movement vocabulary, he finds inspiration in the visual arts and popular culture, which gives his work a distinctive style. A choreographer committed to innovation, he has often been described as one of the most intriguing and inventive choreographers working in the world today, moving seamlessly between the mainstream and avant garde dance works.
As a dancer, Rafael has performed in works by many of the world’s leading choreographers including Merce Cunningham, Richard Alston, Christopher Bruce, Siobhan Davies, Jiri Kylian, Twyla Tharp, Mats Ek, Javier de Frutos, Wayne McGregor, Kim Brandstrup, Mark Baldwin, Jeremy James, Per Jonsson, Lindsay Kemp, Ohad Naharin, Karole Armitage, Matthew Hawkins, Frederick Ashton and Antony Tudor.
His first work for Rambert Dance Company, Three Gone, Four Left Standing, premiered in 1998 at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. He was appointed as Rambert’s Associate Choreographer in 2003, a position he held until 2005. He has choreographed nine works for Rambert Dance Company, including 21, a multi-media work produced in collaboration with Kylie Minogue’s creative team, for which he was a finalist in the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards in the Best Contemporary Choreography category.
In 2002, Bonachela’s career took an interesting turn when he was invited to choreograph Kylie Minogue’s routine at the Brit Awards. His unique approach to choreography, combining contemporary dance within a more mainstream context, was so highly acclaimed that he went onto work extensively with Ms Minogue, as well as other popular artists and clients including Tina Turner, The Kills, Primal Scream, Juliet, Jaguar Automóviles, Siemens Mobile and Hugo Boss.
In September 2004, Rafael piece E2 7SD won the first ever Place Prize award for choreography, along with the Audience Vote Award and the New York Bloomberg Choice Award. The following year his work Irony of Fate won third place in the 19th International choreographic competition in Hanover, Germany. Rafael was invited to present both these works at the Whitechapel Art Gallery by Director Iwona Blazwick and Chair Mario Testino for Art Plus Dance. It celebrated the flashpoints between art and other cultural forms and was unrivalled as the highlight of the arts calendar in 2005.
In 2005, Rambert premiered Rafael’s new work Curious Conscience which subsequently received the prestigious Choo San Goh Award (USA). The production was chosen as the best show of the year by Time Out Magazine in London.
In 2006 at the first ever Biennale Danza e Italia international competition for independent choreographers from all over the world, Rafael was awarded both the Guglielmo Ebreo prize and the Critics’ Prize for Soledad a work commissioned by Probe. In 2007, Bonachela Dance Company was nominated by the National Dance Awards Critics Circle for Outstanding Repertoire (Modern).
After the launch of Bonachela Dance Company in 2006, Rafael was announced as one of the first Artists in Residence at the South Bank Centre, London. Rafael’s most recent work for Bonachela Dance Company The Land of Yes and the Land of No, had its London premiere in September at South Bank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall to great acclaim. This association with the South Bank Centre will continue, even as he is now Director at Sydney Dance Company. Rafael plans to use it as a springboard to further develop his collaborative work with artists from other disciplines and to explore ways in which dance can operate outside it usual theatre forum.
Rafael Bonachela’s vision for Sydney Dance Company embraces a guiding principal that sees commissioned dance works by Australian and international choreographers programmed each year alongside his own creations, ensuring diversity for audiences and a variety of challenges for the dancers.