Artistic Director: Sharon Watson
Choreography: Christopher Bruce CBE, Caroline Finn, Sharon Watson
Reviewer: Beverley Haigh
Established in 1981, like the proverbial bird rising from the ashes, Phoenix Dance Theatre continue to reinvent and re-morph, becoming one of the foremost dance companies in the country.
It is easy to see why, with their collective of highly talented and accomplished dancers leading the way in this mixed programme of four separate dance collaborations. The piece showcases the work of three individual choreographers and although the signature dance of Phoenix is evident throughout, the artistic styles vary greatly in each vignette.
Shift and Shadows are the works of Christopher Bruce CBE and offer some consistency within their approach. Both offer a hint of a narrative: Shift focusing on a mechanical and industrial theme, whereas Shadows centres around a dysfunctional family. Kenji Bunch’s music in Shift does much to add to the ambience of the piece: repetitive and almost clockwork like, a pendulum ticking. Within a minimalist setting the costumes are the only indicators and here they evoke a sense of a bygone era, harking back to images of women during the Second World War in functional clothing and headscarves. The movement begins to depict the monotony of the women’s lives, however this is juxtaposed with an upbeat approach and joviality in its presentation, combined with an optimism when the men enter.
The family setting in Shadows leaves much scope for the audience to identify. Staged around a meal table, the piece offers the opportunity to explore the relationships through the different interactions of the dancers as they move away from the table in turn. The movement is beautiful and the strength displayed is breath-taking. Furniture the performers appear to be using as supports is removed from them with it barely impacting.
Tearfall is the product of current Artistic Director, who has spent much time researching the science of tears and their purpose. This piece takes inspiration from the biochemical make-up of tears but utilises it more as a starting point and an idea that then allows the audience to enjoy the work as a piece of dance for art’s sake. There are varying paces and tempos within it that represent the alternative functions of tears as voiced in the spoken narrative at the outset of the piece, which allows the dancers the freedom to explore multiple styles of dance.
The programme has been compiled with care, due to both logistical and creative reasons. The decision to finish with Bloom is definitely a justifiable one and befitting to leave the audience on a high as they leave their journey with Phoenix. The piece develops into scenes reminiscent of a macabre Moulin Rouge or Eastern European circus, exploring the idea of a misfit. A masked comedian experiences an acceptance as he is applauded for his routine, however, this is not the same as genuine inclusion.
It is unsurprising that Caroline Finn won the 2014 New Adventures Choreographer Award as this piece is absolutely stunning! Quirky and comedic in nature, it offers laugh out loud moments for the audience and a real contrast from the other pieces within the programme.
The enjoyment of being part of a repertoire company is obvious from the dancers and keeps the work fresh and the energy high throughout. Phoenix Dance have thoroughly succeeded in making contemporary dance, which can be fairly limiting and intimidating as an art form at times, truly accessible to all.
Runs until: Touring until 28th May 2015
Reviewed on: 13th May 2015