Review: Phoenix Dance Theatre, Reflected ****

At West Yorkshire Playhouse

A PACKED house brought palpable excitement to Phoenix's return to the Leeds stage, the first time the company has featured work by the newest artistic director Sharon Watson. Melt, Watson's first new piece as leader of the company, closed the mixed programme which gave the Phoenix dancers an opportunity to display their stamina if not necessarily their range.

Richard Wherlock's Switch, which opened the programme, was a contorting, bewilderingly beautiful work. Featuring dance that was at turns aesthetically beautiful and strange to the point of repulsive, it made for a compelling piece that was constantly interesting to watch (in no small part thanks to Michael Mannion's absolutely stunning lighting design). A second Phoenix premiere was Philip Taylor's What it Is, a highly sexual piece on promiscuity and gave Leeds dancer Amanda Lewis a chance to reveal the full sensual range of her technique.

Although a Phoenix favourite, Pave Up Paradise, which followed, does not have quite the wit it thinks it has nor the pure dance to make it a thrill for dance fans. Still, a fun aside in the programme.

Melt was not wholly successful. Featuring dancers swinging from ropes lowered from the ceiling it lacked a clarity – although there were some beautiful tableux – expected given the choreographer's extended absence from the rehearsal room. This sense of abandon disappeared when the dancers took to the ropes for the aerial element. Rather than embracing the uncontrollable nature of the ropes, Watson tried to tame them leading to a dance that had precision but could have done with more passion. It felt as though the choreographer was afraid to let herself go entirely. That aside, it was simply great to have Phoenix back and Watson's piece was anything but a failure. This was a triumphant return.film