Presented by Phoenix Dance Theatre
Friday 23rd March 2012
The Liverpool Playhouse played host to Phoenix Dance Theatre as the company
brought their new mixed programme of works to the city. Showcasing two
premiers and two older pieces, the experimental and accomplished troupe
displayed their commitment to challenging and engaging contemporary dance.
First on the bill was 2004’s Signal
choreographed by Henri Oguike. Performed on an starkly lit red stage and
accompanied by the insistent and urgent rhythms of Japanese Taiko drums,
this piece was visceral yet fluid. The dancers were strong whilst also
showing vulnerability through the fluidity of their upper bodies. The
addition of bowls of fire at the back of the stage added depth and drama,
while simultaneously providing an echo of the dancers’ bodies and
lending an elemental feel to the dance. The performance was in turn thrilling
and insistent and yet could lose focus at times.
Next was 2011’s Catch choreographed
by Ana Lujan Sanchez and inspired by Rene Magritte’s painting Son
of Man. This piece enjoys its status as the most obscure of the
four; taking cues from its links to Magritte’s work in its surrealism
and symbolism. I certainly took away a sense of an attempt in dance to
make the static move. That they took their inspiration from one art form
in Magritte’s painting and used that as a foundation from which
to produce a very challenging example of contemporary dance; intricate
yet daring and not without humour.
Thirdly came 2010’s Maybe Yes Maybe, Maybe
No Maybe choreographed by Aletta Collins. Performed around a live
microphone, this piece was more playful and focused more sharply on the
dancers and their personalities. Street Furniture’s score is aided
by the dancer’s voices, which are transformed into elements of the
composition that drive the music and the performance. It often felt like
the dancers created the sound and that sound in turn created them, defining
their movements and how the audience received them. This was the most
accessible, playful and humorous of the pieces and the most broadly entertaining.
The final piece was Kwesi Johnson’s SoundClash,
which like Catch is a premier piece on this
tour. It takes its inspiration from cymatics, the study of the patterns
that sound waves make in the physical world. At the edge of the stage
stood two pyramid-shaped light boxes projecting the waves that the soundtrack
produced on water onto a screen at the back of the stage. This provided
the setting for what proved to be an intense and inspiring final piece
that blurred the boundaries between dance and physical theatre. The dancers
were precise and intense, working together to articulate what could have
become a confusing concept. They created a real sense that they were marionettes
of the music, their bodies illustrating the nuances of the score.
A varied and exciting programme from Phoenix proves that they are serious
players in British contemporary dance, unafraid of being entertaining
whilst daring to challenge their audience.