An evening with Phoenix Dance Theatre always raises high hopes and ‘Mixed Programme 2015’ at Buxton Opera House (22 April), four contemporary dance works by three individual choreographers, did not disappoint.
‘Shift’, the first of a double bill by Christopher Bruce CBE, set a hectic pace to the insistent and relentless last movement of ‘Swing Shift’ by Kenji Bunch, music inspired by big city life of the 1940s, the relentless energy of the production line and the energy transformed as boy meets girl and briefly interact as humans rather than machines.
This was followed by ‘Shadows’, a more ambiguous work. The four dancers, to Arvo Part’s ‘Fratres’, evoked the turbulence and tragedy of war torn Europe, stunned silent immobility, then violent outbursts followed by support, negotiated, refused, and then accepted, and compassion, finally setting off on a journey into a forbidding unknown.
‘Tearfall’ by the Phoenix Artistic Director Sharon Watson opened with a spoken introduction on the science of tears and their unique composition and role in expressing human emotions. The lighting design, green tear drop lighting above, weighted helium filled balloons below, was particularly effective, though the narrative felt at times strained.
The finale was ‘Bloom’ by Caroline Finn to a collage of contemporary music. The most complex and challenging piece, a series of danses macabres stripped illusions and delusions to reveal a true essence. Again, as in much of the programme, vulnerability seemed at the core of the piece, as the dancers moved from alienation towards empathy, but retreated again.
Throughout the dancers were impressive in their strength, grace and accuracy. A challenging but approachable performance.