Celebrating thirty five years and now with Sharon Watson as Artistic Director, Leeds-based Phoenix Dance Theatre are on blazing form tonight.
Iztik Galili’s impressive, layered Until.With/Out puts the stultifying effects of uniformity front and centre.
The ensemble dance in loping, then sharp militaristic strides, until Sandrine Monin and Jack Thomson break away in frenzied motions of rebellion. So too,the rest then begin to emulate their movements, and small, repeated patterns emerge.
A dystopian environment framed around Henryk Gorecki’s ebbing, flowing,sometimes stabbing music, it is framed by exquisite, controlled groupwork.
Each member finally breaks free,inspired by first a white,then red balloon representing the might of the individual: the potential of self-determination.
Inspired by five of Shakespeare’s love sonnets and mediaeval tugs of lust, Kate Flatt’s Undivided Loves with music by Adriano Adewale feels just too whimsical and feathery,although Yaron Abula’s set design and lighting looks gorgeous.
Marie-Astrid Mence’s solos are gracefully realised, but her love triangle between poet Prentice Whitlow and strutting rival Sam Vaherlehto never really sustains the momentum.
Bloom images:Brian Slater
Caroline Finn’s Bloom is the most exciting of the bill. Impish, yet dark, it takes the ultimate outsider’s perspective. Sam Vaherlehto, misfit amid the misfits,is the lead.
He wears a grotesque yet sorrowful mask and nerdish colourful clothes,groping for the spotlight as the dark-clad oddballs applaud,goad and ignore him chattering gibberish in their sliding table.
The others are too busy playing.Vanessa Vince-Pang is a saucy, gorgeous little sprite, flirting with tall lanky Prentice Whitlow who looks like a handsome bouffon version of Andre 3000. Their pas de deux plays out like a ridiculous, endearing commedia dell’arte.
Meanwhile, to the side of the stage, Carmen Vazquez Marfil’s solo to Emilie Autumn’s grisly take on clapping song Miss Lucy Had Some Leeches is pointed and jarring, her goofball expression undermining the song’s dark preoccupation with dirty old men, Victorian misogyny and female genital mutilation, until she collapses.
Beirut’s gorgeous Gulag Orkestra finds the group united once more,but the outsider prevails. Now down to his underwear, he’mimes’ to an absurd Sinatra-esque version of Radiohead’s Creep by Frank Bennett. The spotlight is his… but not without a struggle.
“So very special”.