Music: Borut Krizisnik, Masaya Takashino, Street Furniture, Luke Harney
Director: Sharon Watson
Reviewer: Tiffany Shepherd
Contemporary Dance doesn’t have the best record for being a light night at the theatre, with a reputation for being complex, long, and frankly, very confusing. But, I have to admit I am impressed with Phoenix Dance Theatre and their production of ‘Crossing Points’ which left me feeling genuinely moved and excited.
Using basic, yet effective lighting and costume, the four pieces: Catch, Signal, Maybe yes Maybe no maybe, and Soundclash, were at points exceptional and broken into manageable chunks by intervals, allowing them to be individually appreciated and not too overwhelming!
Each of the four performances were choreographed separately, Ana Lujan Sanchez basing ‘Catch’ on the painting by Rene Magritte, ‘The Son of Man’ and casting her dancers in suits to give an angular and sometimes disturbing routine. Gradually stripping off their conventional suits they became less constrained as the music by Slovenian composer Borut Krizisnik shot between discordant staccato and traditionalist melodies. Following this was ‘Signal’ choreographed by Henri Oguike incorporating emotions from the battlefield with the idea of calm in the centre of a storm. The simple barred lighting enhanced its Japanese theme along with the tribal, and sometimes harsh, music. The mood changed as fire was revealed at the back of the stage and a real sense of emotion and strength came through, and the moments of silence were particularly effective in concentrating attention solely on the dance.
The last to be performed was ‘Soundclash’, choreographed by Kwesi Johnson. Supposedly based on the patterns created by sound waves, the dancers appeared to work ‘with’ rather than ‘be’ the sound waves in the music, but, a clear relationship was formed between it and the dance. At points it seemed film-like as the pulse of the lights, music and vague influence of hip-hop created an exciting yet tender recital, using shapes of the lights to emphasise the harmony of the dancers. But, the performance not yet mentioned, ‘Maybe yes, Maybe no Maybe’ was the highlight of the show. The others, though good, could not compare while I sat enraptured through this piece choreographed by Aletta Collins which attempted to combine movement and voice, centred around a single hanging microphone. I was sceptical about this concept, worried that it may have pushed the boundaries too far and I would come away feeling confused and disappointed, but listening to the response of the audiences’ applause, I know that I wasn’t the only one who was taken by surprise. More than anything, this performance was fun, making it accessible and different. Dancers took on characters bringing together sound, beat-boxing, fluidity and techno in something which captured all your senses at once. I can’t say how it all worked, but it really did!
The Phoenix Dance Group really portrayed the power and strength of dance and the emotion of relationships. They were actors, as well as dancers and used facial expressions to enhance their movements, and one of the dancers, Chihiro Kawasaki is definitely one to watch, looking both effortlessly graceful, yet strong. The dancers were entirely focused throughout and while it was obvious that they were all individuals, the moments when they lost their identities and came together were amazing.
I won’t pretend to understand the concepts behind half of what was performed, but it was a very good show and is worth a visit, especially for those who think that dance still only involves a tutu, ballet shoes and inspires sleep rather than emotion.