Phoenix Dance Theatre

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan

four stars

Last March, Phoenix Dance Theatre arrived here at the start of the company’s 35th anniversary tour:the dancers shone across a range of styles - the choice of repertoire didn’t. As that celebratory circuit nears its final stages, Phoenix return to Edinburgh with a different triple bill, and again the dancers simply crackle with a versatile energy while the works now jigsaw into a thoroughly watchable showcase of company strengths.
Calyx, choreographed by Sandrine Monin to a brooding soundscore by Roberto Rusconi, reflects how Phoenix director Sharon Watson is looking to develop those strengths further - Monin, a dancer with the company since 2012, was awarded the commission after Phoenix's inaugural Choreographers and Composers Lab in 2015. With Baudelaire’s poems, The Flowers of Evil, in mind, Monin searches for images that suggest a world where the simplicity of nature is being eclipsed by the decadent possibilities of urban society. She uses open-ended boxes to symbolise the calyx that protects buds, has her four dancers - two women and two men - “blossoming” in flurries of emerging limbs before they begin tasting experiences that corrupt the senses. There’s a sensuality to the physicality, hints of lost innocence that sees those boxes function as brief oases, but actually the boxes become a hindrance: they stay distractingly on-stage when Monin’s movement language is really where the juice and darkening moods of the piece are best expressed.
Beast, choreographed by former company dancer Douglas Thorpe in 2009, has a nerve-jangling, bruising edge to it. Perhaps this is what befalls those who venture out of Calyx  and into a world of wrenching tensions where bodies fling themselves against doors that never open, or into arms that rarely support or care. The six dancers inhabit the hysteria with a headlong ferocity that’s charged with recklessness but is never slap-dash: brutal, scary, unstinting. Maybe Yes Maybe, Maybe No Maybe (2010) has mischief and dance magic in every moment of Aletta Collins’s choreography. The Phoenix dancers deliver both, their vocalised whoops, hollers and me-e-e-ows morphed by a beat-boxing over-head microphone into rhythms that send them leaping, lunging, spinning and larking about as if they’d plugged into the National Grid. Street Furniture deliver the beats, the dancers strut some astounding stuff - it all bodes well for the company’s future.

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