Phoenix Dance Theatre: Mixed Programme @ West Yorkshire Playhouse
As the lights dim to black in the Quarry Theatre, a tangible feeling of anticipation shimmies through the auditorium.
Phoenix are always a delight—strong, refreshing, elegant—but in this programme they are also very bold.
The trio of pieces begins with Calyx, inspired by the poems The Flowers of Evil by Baudelaire. In her clever choreography, Sandrine Monin explores the themes of beauty, desire and decadence, forging a parallel path between the flowers blossoming and the complexity of male/female, male/male and female only relationships.
The four dancers (2 male, 2 female) perform with seemingly effortless technique, belying the difficulty and intricacies of the movement. Some of the duets are breathtakingly beautiful and the trio close to the end have to be seen to be believed!
The second piece, Beast, is where the real bravery ensues. Taking a glimpse inside the human psyche, focusing on how we demonstrate, block or hide our feelings of anger and our inner demons, the dancing is stark and the message hard-hitting. The physicality and timing of the dancers is absolutely stunning – yet the piece, at times, is intentionally uncomfortable to watch.
Douglas Thorpe, the choreographer and former Phoenix dancer, directs his 6 dancers to perfection, unafraid to push his message to every single member of the audience (whether they like it or not!) The darkness of the piece suits the theme yet, through the inspired use of lit panels (off which the dancers bash and rebound), not only creates eerie shadows but also, I feel, intimates what goes on behind many a closed door.
For the final piece, we are transported back in time to the 1940’s to be treated to a fusion of Jazz, Tap, Swing, Lindy Hop and Modern Dance – Nightlife at the Flamingo.
As a celebration of their 35th anniversary, Edward Lynch (choreographer), has the inspired concept of using 35 multi-generational performers from present day company, to Ex-Phoenix Dancers. In an interesting twist, members of Phoenix Youth Academy join “the crew” onstage, their enjoyment obvious, the opportunity for these young dancers, immense.
To the dulcet tones of George Gershwin, Benny Goodman and Count Basie and his Orchestra we toe-tap 35 very pleasurable minutes to this uplifting finale, leaving on a high – and with plenty to talk about!
Thank you, Phoenix, for a night that not only entertains, but leaves the audience with food for thought.