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.