Last year I saw Phoenix Dance Theatre perform a mixed programme, Declarations, at their home venue. It left me absolutely amazed and so when I was offered tickets to the premiere of their new show, Crossing Points, I didn’t hesitate for a second.
The programme features four rather discrete works, two of which are brand new. Things kick off with Catch, a new piece by Ana Lujan Sanchez inspired by the Magritte painting, Son of Man. The six dancers, all in suits, initially move in careful, structured patterns, but as the piece progresses, they shed their restrictive clothing and become more free and more fluid. In Henri Oguike’s Signal, the soundtrack is a relentless beating of Japanese drums, and the lighting a row of three flame filled bowls. The movements are tribal and war like, interspersed with a few moments of peace. Next comes Maybe Yes Maybe, Maybe No Maybe, by Aletta Collins, which is always a crowd pleaser. Based around five dancers and a microphone, it does two remarkable things: it elicits laughs from the audience and somehow gives a microphone a personality. Finally, another new piece: Sound Clash by Kwesi Johnson, which used resourceful lighting by Ed Railton and grungy, asymmetric costumes to create a complex, intricate piece which was visually stunning and definitely a worthy show closer.
The use of props was nothing short of impressive. Ropes, bowler hats, microphones and more were all used to great effect; the microphone and the rope in particular made me think of the famous Pixar lamp as movement and lighting and the dancers combined to give animation to the inanimate.
The highlights for me were a few stolen moments of silence, where the music stopped and all you could hear were gasps of effort, bare feet hitting the floor and heavy breathing. The focus was drawn right to the dancers and to the sheer mechanics of what was happening. Whilst music drowns everything out, the dancers’ movements look effortless and graceful; being able to hear them suddenly made everything more human and physical. The movements felt more brutal and visceral, and suddenly I found myself thinking not about the beautiful shapes and movements but the bodies themselves: brutal, visceral tools that are strong and sinewy and controlled.
There were eight dancers in all, each one of them incredibly talented. I’ve said it before but Azzurra Ardovini has this energy about her that is almost palpable; in any group piece I found my eyes drawn to her. Having said that though, Ryu Suzuki and Chihiro Kawasaki dance incredibly well together, and both are strong, lithe and fluid. I expect huge things from them!
Crossing Points is running until Sat 4th Feb at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Check out Phoenix Dance’s Twitter feed to get ticket offers! I hugely recommend it as a gorgeous night of contemporary dance that’s enjoyable for even dance dunces!