West Yorkshire Playhouse
A mixed programme that lived up to its name, Phoenix Dance Theatre’s latest tour piece is a collection of work unlikely to appeal to everyone in its entirety.
Four pieces make up the latest programme of the Leeds company and while most audiences will find something that appeals in at least one of the four pieces, it would come as a surprise if a single audience member enjoyed all four individually.
Previous mixed programmes have appeared as a coherent whole, but this latest programme is too much of a mixed bag, lacking a defined spine through the work, to provide what might be considered a single narrative through which the audience can be led.
The most compelling piece of the evening, a world premiere, features the physicality, the muscularity and sheer joy that have made Phoenix one of the UK’s most loved and internationally acclaimed touring companies.
Soundclash, by Kwesi Johnson, features a score by Luke Harney that teases out the intensity of the piece and it is in this work that we really feel the energy of the dancers. The choreography, the music and the performance combine to thrilling effect with the dancers’ individual strengths on show, and their work as a team when they join to become a writhing mass of bodies is as good as it gets.
The piece that sums up the vaguely disappointing nature of the programme is old favourite Signal. A signature piece of the company, it was, judging by the audience reaction, a welcome return, but danced by the current crop – all dancers who have a great sense of likeability – it feels strangely feminine. Danced to the beats of Taiko drums, choreographed by Henri Oguike, with the precision the work demands, one imagines the Phoenix of old pummelling the piece into shape. Here it took on a pretty, not powerful, shape.
Maybe Yes Maybe, Maybe No Maybe allows the dancers to reveal their personalities most completely, playing with a microphone hanging from the rafters. Aletta Collins’s playful dance is enjoyable, fun, the piece that most suits these dancers. But Phoenix is about power and precision, not playfulness.