Artistic Director: Sharon Watson
Choreography: Henri Oguike, Ana Lujan Sanchez, Aletta Collins and Kwesi Johnson
Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Phoenix appear to be going from strength to strength since Sharon Watson became Artistic Director in 2009. Crossing Points comprises four distinct pieces of work by four choreographers. Phoenix are characterised by the range of work they now offer and a readiness to allow the personalities of the dancers to shine.
The show opened with a classic from the Phoenix archive, Henri Oguike’s Signal, first performed in 2004. Inspired by and set to a strongly percussive Japanese score by Masaya Takashino including traditional music, Signal is performed before an imposing set of Japanese gates with a vivid palette of red and black carried through costumes, the nocturnal lighting scheme and dazzling bowls of fire. The movement is characteristic of Oguike, technical but lyrical with elements of extreme classicism combined with insectoid movements. Signal creates dramatic images of combat and feudal courtly ritual, while still looking as fresh and contemporary as a piece of brand new work. Two recent additions to the company, Glenn Graham and Antonio Borriello have an especially strong presence in a company with a long tradition of celebrating male dancing.
If Signal conveyed suggestions of mediaeval Japan, Ana Lujan Sanchez’s new piece for the company, Catch, was entirely different. Inspired by René Magritte’s painting The Son of Man, Catch was a much more early-20th century affair. Anonymous suited figures battled against the man machine in pursuit of an elusive bowler hat. Set to a new contemporary score by Borut Krzisnik, Catch was a dystopian exploration of a surreal world with a sense of social order unravelling as they sought a means of escape with (or despite) the collective. Complex and involving, Catch creates a growing sense of unease before ending with a note of surreal humour. Long-serving dancers Phil Sanger and the wonderful Azzurra Ardovini made their presences strongly felt throughout.
Newer Phoenix favourite, Aletta Collins’ Maybe Yes Maybe, Maybe No Maybe set yet another mood. This is a witty, playful piece that adds sounds by the dancers to an electronic score by Street Furniture via a hanging microphone with a life of its own. This is a piece that combines elements of street dance with the dancers own individual styles to create something characteristically full of personality and individual performance. With its pool of light and black American Apparel wardrobe it looks as good as it sounds. Sanger, Ardovini and Graham are joined by the charismatic and athletic Josh Wille and new dancer Vanessa Vince-Pang for this entertaining audience pleaser.
Final piece of the evening is another brand new work, SoundClashby Kwesi Johnson. Set to a driving, dance score by Luke Harvey, SoundClash explores the patterns made by sound waves when made visible. Ed Railton’s lighting design and back projection of actual speaker vibrations create a dynamic setting for another superb performance, with Borriello replacing Glenn Graham in the group from the previous piece. The choreography again brings together elements of street dance with edgily extreme classical and new movement that brought echoes of Wayne McGregor, Michael Clark and Hofesh Shechter – no bad thing. It’s a very modern, technical, exciting and accessible piece of contemporary dance.
Phoenix presented four pieces of work with distinct looks and feels, beautifully lit and costumed, each as enjoyable and engaging as the last: a very strong programme. The unifying element is the strong company and an obvious commitment to producing high quality work, new and old, that allows and encourages those dancers to shine as individuals.
The Phoenix continues to rise.
Photo: Brian Slater
Reviewed on 18th September 2012