Dance Review







Phoenix Dance Theatre Repertoire


Phoenix Dance Theatre


Sadler’s Wells


28 - 29 April 2008





ary Couzen

A review by Allan Taylor for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Phoenix Dance Theatre are one of Britain’s leading contemporary dance companies producing an eclectic range of innovative work, inspired from a range of icons in pop culture and classical art. At these limited performances at Sadler’s Wells, Phoenix displays a mixed bill from their repertoire including two pieces originally choreographed by Jose Limon, one of the world-renowned figures in contemporary dance whose work is not often seen in this country.

Opening with Blue Roses, a dance inspired by selected passages from Tennessee Williams’ A Glass Menagerie, we see a very fluid and controlled dance. Using the rhythm of voice as the choreographer, the dancers danced to a recorded monologue from A Glass Menagerie and really emphasise the nuances of human speech through movement, and how voice can inform action. Josephine Darvill- Mills and Tiziana Fracchiolla do a great job of portraying Amanda, and dance simultaneously, and yet separately giving us a depth of portrayal of Williams’ original writing in a different art form.

The first of the pieces originally choreographed by Limon is Chaconne; a male solo. Bradley Shelver does a sterling job of holding his balance and using the space onstage that can so easily swallow someone who is all on their own. Chaconne is a perfect accompaniment to Bach’s musical composition of the same name. Bach’s score carries the dancer through the space, and Shelver uses his body to encapsulate it to an excellent degree.

The second Limon piece, The Moor’s Pavane, is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Othello, though not intended as a strict interpretation. David Mack dances wonderfully in this piece and his strong and subtle movements provide the power and sorrow of jealousy. Traditional in movement, yet striking in imagery and colour, even Pauline Lawrence’s costume design adds to the very lush and striking visual of this dance.

The company’s final dance, Paseillo, really justifies Javier De Frutos’ choreography and role of artistic director of Phoenix. It is chaotic and yet orderly, and tells of the power struggle in love between men and women, men and men, women and women. Framed as a ‘fight’ with dancers carrying boards indicating which ‘round’ it is, Its twists and quick movement make for an intriguing and easily engaging piece. Performed to Mozart’s Litanie de venerabili altaris sacramento, an intentional vinyl crackle throughout the piece added something rustic and real to it; as if the old is being emphasised against the new and contemporary. Jean-Marc Puissant’s minimal set design sets the piece off, creating a ‘private world’.

With informed decisions and beautiful execution, Phoenix’s repertoire is a must see for anyone who is interested in contemporary dance. With Limon’s original work executed so diligently and closely to the original choreography, as well as a good display of Frutos’ new and exciting choreography, it has both the challenging and the traditional. Those who are graduating from ballet to this forum are sure to love it, as well as those who appreciate form and grace. The interesting thing about their work is the ability to challenge straightforward interpretations of classical pieces, and the progressive thinking in terms of the relationship of dance with different artforms. I would love to see Phoenix work with more technology though, as Blue Roses gives us a taste of that innovation without exploring their full capacity to do so. I feel there is a world of things they could say if they opened themselves up to that possibility.

All in all, a wonderful repertoire that was excellently danced. Budding dancers and anyone with an eye for aesthetic will not want to let this one pass them by. A great and rare chance to see some of Limon’s original choreography (including the first performance of Chaconne in the UK) combined with innovation and originality.

Phoenix Dance Theatre are performing until the 29th of April
Performance time at 7.30pm
Tickets £10 - £22
For more info call 0844 412 4300 or visit








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