Review: Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Triple Bill 2016 – ‘exhilerating, visually spectacular’

By February 24, 2016

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.

Melt1----Phoenix_Brian-Slater.jpg-copy-768x913As part of their 35th impressive celebration season, Phoenix Dance Theatre’s 2016 Triple Bill anniversary show includes three dance pieces; Melt, Undivided Loves and Until.With/Out.Enough, each created by a different choreographer, diverse and intriguing in their own special ways. The constant, in all of these, is this highly talented group of seven dance-theatre performers who are able to push the boundaries of their artistic competences, including accomplished aero-rope work as integral to their repertoire.

Undivided Loves. Photo by Brian Slater

Undivided Loves. Photo by Brian Slater

Melt, choreographed by Phoenix Dance-Theatre’s Artistic Director, Sharon Watson, explores the elemental properties of water in its many forms, although especially inspired by frozen ice and its oppositional, reactive relationships with fire and heat. The piece uncovers a curious world of texture and design, personified through highly charged rhythmic variances and atmospheric lighting suggestive of such changing states. The ever-present musical soundtrack, composed by Wild Beasts, evokes the driving forces and complements the impetus for a spectrum of movement interpretations, sometimes going with the flow and at other times expressing clear juxtapositions. Often times aesthetical beautiful and always visually spectacular, Melt is an immensely memorable piece in which the successful execution of intricate, cleverly interpretative choreography, combining with the added risky dimension of seamless aerial transitions, is not to be under-estimated.  The ending to this piece could, however, have been stronger.

Undivided Loves is an unusual, innovative mix of intricate emotive interplay, choreographed by Kate Flatt (RSC Les Miserables) and accompanied with live on-stage percussion and creative vocalisation from Brazilian musician, Adriano Adewale. The voiced-over extracts from five of Shakespeare’s Sonnets are reimagined as danced performance, exploring the emotional landscapes of love, duplicity and betrayal played in and out of a daydream-like world. This enticing journey of intense feeling between the three dancers, as they explore permutations of passion, realises new perspectives through the physicalisation of the great poet’s form. At times, with such a complex balance of recorded and live sound there seemed to be an unfortunate disconnect which interfered with the link between sonnet content and danced performance. However, the outstanding abilities of the three dance-theatre performers carried the piece to a level which was a joy to witness.

A scene from Until.With/Out.Enough by Phoenix Dance Theatre @ Linbury Studio, ROH. (Opening 12-11-15) ©Tristram Kenton 10/15 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email:

Until.With/Out.Enough by Phoenix Dance Theatre ©Tristram Kenton

Until.With/Out.Enough, highly abstract in its movement content, appears to take the form of an intangible, almost neuro-scientific journey into the mechanised workings of the mind. In a London interview (Nov 2015) with world renowned, Itzik Galili, the piece’s Dutch-Israeli choreographer, he speaks of the subject matter as “a simple story about two people who reflect on who we are.” In contrast, the official programme bills the performance as exploring “the concept of the enclosed space within our minds”, whilst the cast expressed an openness as to the meaning of the piece and would rather rely entirely on the visceral responses of the onlooker than being located or tied-in to any narrative form. Nevertheless, this is another fascinating performance to complete a superb evening’s entertainment.

It is wonderful to see such exceptional performance, yet again, from Phoenix Dance Theatre who are going from strength to strength as a tour de force within their own genre. By continually pushing the boundaries to create a superb blending of pieces this programme provides something for everyone, whether the preference is for a more narrative or abstract form.

Phoenix Dance Theatre are performing their Triple Bill at seven further U.K. venues from March to June 2016. See here for further details. Reviewed by Pete Gray on Friday 19th February 2016, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.