Published: Thursday, 14 February 2013 13:45
Written by Zoe Parker
Phoenix Dance Theatre premiered their new programme “Particle Velocity” to a packed audience at West Yorkshire Playhouse. This mixed bill was a very diverse programme and offered a combination of traditional and cutting-edge choreography, all wrapped up in the physically dynamic style that Phoenix Dance Theatre is best known for.
The evening opened with choreography from Richard Alston, which is the first work he has created for the company and fans of his work will not be disappointed. All Alight is well-crafted and reminiscent of a more traditional era in choreography, with a series of duets, trios and ensemble sections. This is danced to a backdrop of Ravel’s music for violin and cello, exquisitely performed by Benedict Holland and Jennifer Langridge from Psappha; the musicians’ positioning upstage greatly enhanced the relationship between music and dance. Conceptually and choreographically, All Alight is not groundbreaking work, but as Alston says, ‘I know what moves me about dance’. Apprentice dancers Chris Agius Darmanin and Vanessa Vince-Pang were particularly captivating in this piece, bringing a wonderfully light and elegant quality to their duets. Notable, too, was the seamless lighting from designer Andy Waddington.
Next on the programme was Ki, Jose Agudo's first piece for Phoenix Dance Theatre and inspired by Genghis Khan's extraordinary life, exploring themes of a man seizing control of his own destiny. Josh Wille, performing this solo, is an extraordinary dancer and has ample opportunity to showcase his strong capabilities. The movement is technically and physically demanding, and there are moments that are really exciting. However, conceptually, the piece lacked clarity. While there was a connection to the title 'ki' or 'energy' , using movement content with a martial arts flavour, the link with Genghis Khan seemed rather nebulous.
The strongest piece of the night was after the second interval: Douglas Thorpe’s Tender Crazy Love is conceptually brilliant. Each element of the piece resonates very simply but also very clearly with the same concept. The duet is about a couple pushed to extremes of desire and is visually cinematic. Thorpe’s signature visceral raw style is contextualized within stunning and dramatic lighting which punctuates the shifts in the story. The music is well-chosen and also heightens the action. The use of confetti as a visual is utterly mesmerising and cleverly implemented. The lighting manages to alter the space in unusual and surprising ways. Thorpe’s work has really developed over the past few years, and gone from strength to strength. He is definitely one to watch for the future and I look forward to his first full evening work, Dogs Land, later this year.
Repetition of Change, the final piece of the programme, was choreographed by Phoenix Dance Theatre's Artistic Director, Sharon Watson, and also uses live music with a specially commissioned score ‘Forms Entangled, Shapes Collided’, composed by Kenneth Hesketh and performed by Psappha, which is dark and rhythmically complex. This is an ambitious and brave piece exploring the intricate world of DNA. Watson has replicated and used double helix within the piece because it is multi-layered. The opening of this piece is visually stunning and the movement has a mercurial quality, as a giant parachute begins to unfold under projections which put the dancers on stage under a microscope. This is a very strong section in the piece, with powerful imagery and compelling movement, and could have afforded further development. The dancers work exceptionally well as an ensemble in this piece, which is wonderful to watch.
Phoenix Dance Theatre’s premiere received rapturous rockstar-like applause from their audience, proving it to be a popular and entertaining programme of work. Particle Velocity is touring nationally; visit phoenixdancetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/tour-dates.htm for further details.
Published: Sunday, 10 February 2013 17:37
Written by Elise Nuding
The three works of this Resolution! evening all began with strong, striking images. Some delivered on the potential set up by their opening, while others did not.
Standing alone in a green dress, Mariana Camiloti exudes presence from the moment of her entrance. Soon, a green balloon emerges from her pocket and the solo becomes a duet. Air is repeatedly blown into and let of the balloon, with Camiloti similarly inflating and deflating in empathy with her new partner. The pace is slow, but mesmerising, until she breaks the spell by letting go. The balloon whizzes through the air, somewhat ridiculously. A cluster of balloons is revealed at the back of the stage as the lighting signals the shift into the next phase of the dance.
Vibrantly green, these balloons provide a visual feast. Gradually Camiloti arranges them into a diagonal line stretching almost all the way across the stage. Her pace starts slow but becomes more frantic as she rushes up and down the line, constantly rearranging the balloons, trying to keep them in place. It is a valiant, but futile effort, as these green spheres are full of air and agency. The execution of this simple but challenging task is engaging: an attempt at control and a search for order that is in vain, but which is endearing for that very reason.
After requesting the audience to blow up and contribute the balloons that they were given before entering the auditorium, her visual landscape increases in brilliance and we are treated to seeing Camiloti really move. It is breathtaking, full of lightness and clarity, and it leaves me wanting more. As compelling as her earlier gestural movement was, it feels like it is with this new movement energy that 27 Dragonflies wants to culminate. But there isn’t quite enough to satisfy.
The dreamscape created by Camiloti is about... balloons? Bubbles? Dragonflies? It doesn’t really matter; this is an intensely personal world, to be individually experienced in all its delightful surreality.
Loughlin Dance’s Placid Chaos opens with one dancer lit by a square of light. As his movement escalates, he is forced out of, and back into the illuminated rectangle, an effective visual choice. The other dancers enter, walking across the stage, sometimes skirting the central lit area, sometimes not. But the tension created by this opening is not upheld in the rest of the dance.
There are some interesting choreographic moments, but these are lost in the larger swirl of bodies that lacks purpose and structure. Overall, the choreography feels too much like snippets of phrases sellotaped together; it needs more flow, and maybe more stillness too. It also tends towards angst, lending it an air of drama that seems superficial rather than supported by the content. The hip-hop inspired sections, although pulsing with intensity, do not fit well into the whole.
Eventually the opening image re-emerges, the rectangle of light starkly lighting the same performer. It is nice to see Placid Chaos come full circle, the end anchored to the beginning, but it doesn’t really go anywhere in between.
The evening concluded with CoDa Dance Company’s 12 Months On. This piece opened with two performers each holding another performer limp in their arms. The choice to prolong this moment was a good one: the tension built accordingly. Eventually it broke, the performers violently dropping their comrades’ bodies to the floor; the power of hearing bodies and floor collide should not be underestimated.
12 Months On deals with caring for the ill and the guilt, anger, and confusion that this can engender. It is dominated by beautifully strong performances and seems to hinge around the duet structure. However, this breaks down as the piece progresses with trios and solos also appearing in the mix. Whilst these moments generally still work, the duet is the more effective choice, especially given the subject matter. More emphasis on the duet as structural underpinning would make for a tighter piece that delivers with more impact.
For the most part, the bodies do the talking, conveying the varied emotional responses to caretaking. However, there is one moment where speech is introduced and it seems unnecessary. The use of voice does not add anything to what the bodies are already saying, and this solo moment could have been just as communicative without.
Overall, 12 Months On conveys what it sets out to convey, highlighting the complexities that come with responsibility towards another’s body: a particularly poignant subject matter for dance.