Sunday, 22 February 2015

Phoenix Dance Theatre: Mixed Programme 2015 – West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds (On behalf of The Public Reviews)

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews and the review can be accessed here:

Photo credit:  Phoenix Dance Theatre

Phoenix Dance Theatre opens 2015 with their exciting mixed programme premiering at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.  The company prides in collaborating with professionals to produce diverse new works of which four are presented in this programme.

The programme opens with Christopher Bruce’s Shift.  This short piece represents how time dictates life in a big city.  The dancing is done mechanically and methodically to Kenji Bunch’s Swing Shift in stages and in a manner with similar moves replicating one after another.   The tempo of the percussion, reminding of a clock ticking, and piano music is consistent and the slicky aligned movement feels like a clock’s pendulum swinging symbolising representation of time.

Next is Bruce’s poignant Shadows which shares an insight into European history with a specific focus on suffering during the turbulent events in the 20th Century.  The show portrays the suffering of a family who are going through a lot.  A wide range of emotions are expressed with intricate and physical movement working in unison with Arvo Part’s Fratres.   There is clever usage of John B Read’s lighting to reflect the poignancy of what the family is going through and the effective stillness of the stage.   The limited number of props is admirably used; the suitcases and coats figuratively marking the suffering the family has experienced, symbolising the uncertainty of their fate.  This could suggest a link with the Second World War where many were sent away to Concentration Camps but unknown to them at the time.

Sharon Watson’s new show TearFall, begins with a scientific analysis of the eyes; how important the eyes are to humans with is strength and yet fragility through tears which Yaron Abulafia’s staging of light bulbs and balloons illustrates.  The slick fluid and incredible dancing demonstrates the scientific and emotive connections with Kristian Steffes’s music which reminds one of the diverse emotions expressed through tears.  The production is supported by Wellcome Trust with scientific advice received from Sir John Holman.  TearFall is well received and certainly another successful scientific theme work following Repetition of Change.

Caroline Finn’s Bloom, premiering in this mixed programme, is commissioned in partnership with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and is linked to the company’s Choreographer Award.  Bloom represents a number of characters telling their stories amidst physical and emotional facades and barriers.  Through dance, outward attempts to individually and collectively tell their story are made, but inwardly with reluctance.  During the course of the show the characters become more confident in the spotlight and begin to reveal all, even if they think society expects differently.   The longing to be yourself can conflict with what you perceive society expects of you.  To use a parallel today, people live in layers which may gradually become revealed when different situations are presented, but caution prevails. Are you truly ever yourself?

This Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Mixed Programme has something for everyone.   It is easy relatable, and there is a lot to explore and think about in terms of your own perception. The production takes certain themes and shows how these can affect everyday life past, present and future.  Exceptionally skilled dancing by a superbly talented cast with sound choreography across four diverse shows makes for an enjoyable evening of contemporary dance theatre.

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