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Sydney Dance Company 50th Anniversary

In celebration of Sydney Dance Company's 50th anniversary, the artistic director Rafael Bonachela commissioned designer Bianca Spender to design the costumes for his latest choreography, 'Cinco'.

Since movement lies at the core of Bianca's Creative process, this collaboration has been both inspirational and impactful.

"The design and pattern making process is a form of modern poetry for me. clothing that have rhythm that combine understatement and elevation, precision and imagination." 

Bianca Spender


Bianca had dreamt of working with Rafael Bonachela ever since she created a collection inspired by the movement of dance and birds. As part of her research, she attended one of his rehearsals, and it set in motion the exciting challenge of incorporating enough volume into the clothes to allow for the extension and contortion of a modern dancers movements. 

"I wanted the structure of the garments to embody movement, to be a representation of the musical composition and the dancers movement." 

Bianca Spender


Inspired by the soaring sounds of Alberto Ginastera's String Quartet No.2, the costumes range in colour from dusk to dawn and incorporate elements of twisted beauty.

Bianca speaks on her designs for Cinco and the inspirations behind her work.

Could you please tell us a little about your inspiration behind the Cinco costumes?

The first thing I started with was the conversation I had with Rafael Bonachela about the music for Cinco. When I was listening to the music there was this intensity, sweeping passion and these varying emotional journeys. I wanted the costumes to have simplicity with a twist because of the way the pace changes so much. The costume had to have air, fluidity and enhance the dancers.


Bianca Spender and Company dancer Chloe Leong. Photo by Pedro Greig.

What is the process of creating a costume from design to performance?

Coming from fashion you generally see one model after another, so you absorb them as a separate individual concepts, whereas here, all five dancers are in the space together.

Amongst the dancers themselves, there is so much synergy and I wanted to enhance and magnify this. I was trying to capture all that feeling in their costumes. I’m making costumes that I know are probably going to be destroyed because of the fine chiffon. I knew this was a dangerous choice, but I was so committed to the air they achieve.

I thought about what time of day I imagined hearing Alberto Ginastera's music, which drew me to the chosen colours. I felt it was about dusk and twilight hours (not night or day), so I started with gold then choose the others: dusky blues and mushroom greys. We swapped colourways and changed fabrics so they had the right weight, lightness, intensity and depth to them all.

Could you please tell us a little about your collaboration with Rafael Bonachela and how you influenced each other’s creative ideas?

I think Rafael is a born collaborator, he gives you full confidence to realise your vision. He hands it over to your domain. He has his own vision, but he gives you space to work in your expertise.

How is designing for dance similar or different to designing your own collections?

I think what’s fascinating about designing for dance is that it’s not dissimilar from designing other collections in the fact that you can have a lot of freedom and considerations. I have designed collections inspired by dance before, but never specifically for dance. Considerations for designing for people can include: how does this jacket feel when I’m driving a car, how does it look when I sit down. But for dance, the scope of movement is just so vast. It was a nice fit because movement has always inspired my design process, like how the fabric falls around you when you move.


How would you describe your design style?

My design style is about the meeting of masculine and feminine elements and precise tailoring crossed with romantic organic drape. That's what's important to me and my designs, this idea of beauty and strength together. 


Dancers in rehearsal for Rafael Bonachela's Cinco. Photo by Pedro Greig.



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