Monday, 7 October 2019
Phoenix at Home
Standard YouTube Licence
Phoenix Dance Theatre Phoenix at Home Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre 27 Sep 2019 19:30
I have swelled with pride when I have watched Phoenix Dance Theatre perform at the Peacock, the Lowry or the Linbury in Covent Garden but nowhere are they better than at home in their own theatre before their local audience. This year it was particularly good with extracts from an exciting new piece called Black Waters which will be premiered at the Leeds Playhouse in February.
Black Waters was introduced by Sharon Watson, the company's artistic director, at the start of the show. In a short speech, she explained that it was inspired by two of the most infamous episodes of British imperial history. One was the murder of 130 Africans in 1782 by the owner of the vessel Zong who actually had the nerve to attempt to claim insurance for the loss of those slaves. The other outrage was the imprisonment of Indians in the Kala Pani prison over 100 years later. Watson mentioned that she was building on the success of Windrush: Movement of the People which is another aspect of this country's imperial past.
The piece is a collaboration between Watson and Shambik Ghose and Mitul Sengupta of Rhythmosaic in Kolkatta. The intention is to blend the heritage and strengths of both companies. That is to say, kathak and contemporary to a score by Dishari Chakraborty. The extracts that we saw are very uncomfortable to watch even centuries later but they are also absorbing. Clearly, this will be a very important work.
Our mood changed instantly with the next piece which was a work by the students of Phoenix Youth Academy. Those kids are wonderful. Their energy was boundless. They performed a work created especially for them by Sandrine Monin. She is the choreographer who created Calyx. Monin thrilled me as a dancer when she was with Phoenix and she continues to excite me with her choreography.
The last work of the evening was Jeanguy Saintus's Rite of Spring. I had seen that work in the mightly Lowry (see Phoenix Comes of Age with its Rite of Spring 27 March 2019) and in the CAST in Doncaster (see Phoenix's Rite of Spring and Left Unseen 11 April 2019) and I have described the work in those reviews. The Stanley and Audrey Burton is a much more intermediate auditorium and I have actually danced in it. For once I felt I was not just watching the performance but actually taking part in the ceremony. Never have I felt closer to the performers or more involved in the show than I did that night. It was an unforgettable theatrical experience.
Sadly, dancers move on. Carmen, Sandrine and Prentice have gone but the wonderful Vanessa Vince-Pang is still here as are Carlos Martinez and Michael Marquez. There are some very promising new faces whose careers I shall follow with interest.
Shortly after the show, it was announced that Sharon Watson had received a Black British Business Award (see Sharon Watson wins big at the Black British Business Awards 3 Oct 2019). This award delights me but not surprise me in the least. I have seen her in presentations in contexts quite unconnected with dance such as the Chinese IP Roadshow that I chaired two years ago and she is very impressive indeed.