Small Scale is Beautiful in Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Programme

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Various Composers, Particle Velocity: Phoenix Dance Theatre, Royal Opera House (Linbury Studio Theatre), London, 19.11.2013 (JO’D)

All Alight
Dancers: Andreas Grimaldier, Phil Sanger, Jitka Tumova, Sam Vaherlehto, Carmen Vazquez Marfil, Vanessa Vince-Pang, Josh Wille
Musicians: Benedict Holland (violin) and Jennifer Langridge (cello)
Choreography: Richard Alston
Music: Ravel – Sonata for Violin and Cello
Costume Design: Becs Andrews
Lighting Design:  Andy Waddington


Dancer: Josh Wille
Choreography: José Agudo
Music: Vinz
Costume Design: Lorna Clayton
Lighting Design: Andy Waddington
Dramaturg: Lou Cope


Tender Crazy Love
Dancers: Sandrine Monin, Phil Sanger
Choreography: Douglas Thorpe
Music: Al Green, Dick Dale and his Del-Tones, Nancy Sinatra, Wovenhand
Costumes Realised by: Lorna Clayton
Lighting Design: Andy Waddington


Repetition of Change
Dancers: Andreas Grimaldier, Phil Sanger, Jitka Tumova, Sam Vaherlehto, Carmen Vazquez Marfil, Vanessa Vince-Pang, Josh Wille
Musicians: Conrad Marshall (flute), Dov Goldberg (clarinet), David Lewis (percussion), Benedict Holland (violin), Jennifer Langridge (cello)
Choreography: Sharon Watson
Music: Kenneth Hesketh
Costume Design: Sharon Watson and Lorna Clayton
Set and Video Design: Becs Andrews

Of the four works (all from 2012) presented by Phoenix Dance Theatre in their Linbury Studio Theatre programme, it is the two on a smaller scale (involving fewer dancers and fewer stage resources) that make the most impression. In José Agudo’s ten-minute solo, Ki, Josh Wille graduates from crouching, to standing, to walking as he discovers the strength and possibilities of his own body. The movements the dancer makes are, in themselves, simple, yet he demonstrates complete control of them as, in the middle of the piece, he circles the stage while simultaneously executing 360o turns. The recorded music by Vinz (a composer who has performed with Hofesh Shechter), builds to a crescendo. At the end, whistles of appreciation could be heard along with the applause.

The movements in Douglas Thorpe’s Tender Crazy Love are those of man and a woman in a troubled, uneasy relationship. In clothes that any two people could wear to a nightclub (his wine-coloured shirt; her black, shiny dress) they are first seen approaching each other from opposite sides of the darkened stage, as any two people who are attracted to each other in a nightclub might approach each other. On the point of contact, affection turns to anger, then back again, a pattern that repeats throughout the rest of the piece. Dancers Phil Sanger and Sandrine Monin tussle with equal force under a red light and, in an atmosphere that grows increasingly surreal, a shower of what could be shavings or leaves (also red) that falls around them as Nancy Sinatra sings ‘Bang Bang (He shot me down)’.

For Richard Alston’s All Alight, the first this choreographer has created for the company and the work that opens the programme, two musicians from the Psappha New Music Ensemble take their places on the stage to play Ravel’s ‘Sonata for Violin and Cello’, music which, to Alston, suggests ‘Mediterranean light’. In clothes redolent of summers of the 1950s, in France (the men’s rolled short sleeves; the women’s boat-necked dresses), the dancers move with outstretched arms across the dappled floor. The well-matched Josh Wille and Carmen Vazquez Marfil strike sparks as they leap and turn in almost antagonistic display. During the music’s slow movement, Phil Sanger, Jitka Tumova and Sam Vaherlehto combine to form a melancholy ménage à trois. Andreas Grimaldier (who studied at the Académie Méditteranéene de danse) expresses joie de vivre in the unforced flexibility of his arms and legs.

If it is for the moments it contains, rather than for the work as a whole, that All Alight is memorable, the same is also true, I think, of artistic director Sharon Watson’s ambitious endpiece, Repetition of Change. ‘The original application was very much about atoms and Greek mythology,’ Watson says in an interview in the programme. Something of the latter remains in the costumes (which give the dancers the air of futuristic Furies), even as atoms and mythology became DNA and the double helix. Five musicians from Psappha are at the side of the stage to perform a score composed in collaboration with the choreographer by Kenneth Hesketh. Sanger commands as a central figure who instigates movement. The capes make interesting shapes when stretched to their full extent. In later sections, though, the stage can look overcrowded, with too much movement happening on it. So, at the end, there is only the awareness that the movement has stopped.

John O’Dwyer

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