Phoenix Dance Theatre is a key company for contemporary dance in the North, a Leeds-founded organisation that I truly believe more students should know about and enjoy. I got the pleasure of seeing their home showcase at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre, an annual event that brings together their favourite pieces, works-in-progress, and some promising emerging talent. After watching all three pieces I had no doubt that the ability of this dance company is immense.
The night consisted of three dance pieces; Kirke by Sandrine Monin, Spam by Michael Marquez and Troy Game by Robert North. The highlight of the night was the world-renowned Troy Game, a colourful and comedic piece exploring the roots of masculinity. The choreography is wonderfully satirical of machismo with slapstick routines and caricaturesque personalities bringing a delightful wit to the performance. The satire is heightened by its recent reworking of the piece to include female dancers equally in the choreography, creating an effortless statement of gender-fluidity within the piece. The piece was a roaring success to showcase as a finale and leave the audience on an inevitable high.
Kirke is a new piece of choreography by Sandrine Monin, who has been given the opportunity to choreograph after being employed within their permanent company as a dancer. The work is centred around Kirke of ancient Greek legend, a sorceress of dark enchantments who transforms men into animals for sport. The choreography had an ominous tone, with the fluidity and haunting beauty of the movement leaving a viewer on the edge of their seat. The dancers taking on the role of Kirke wore a headpiece with a long cascading plait, which often faltered by moving out of place or being clumsily manoeuvred. This prop only hindered the performance which would have been just as effective (if not more) without it. Nevertheless, Monin’s choreography is full of originality and promise, and special commendation must go to the dancer Vanesse Vince-Pang whose grace and energy was captivating as Kirke.
Phoenix Youth Academy also showed their potential in a new work by Michael Marquez entitled Spam. Although slightly frantic at times due to the pace of the choreography and the number of dancers on stage, there was no arguing that the emerging dancers were skilful and hard-working. The piece was modernistic, centring on our rapidly growing culture of technology and communication which struck me as a particularly relevant topic to choreograph for these teens and young adults.
Phoenix Dance Theatre is undoubtedly worthy of their reputation as a forerunner in the contemporary dance scene, and the home showcase was an event of pride and joy as their committed following witnessed the triumph of the company. I do believe students should strive to see their work, especially with much of their content being simultaneously so skilful and so relevant to modern life.
Image Courtesy of Phoenix Dance Theatre/Brian Slater