Reflected is an important tour for Phoenix Dance Theatre. Recent tours have been small scale, a case of assuring the public that Phoenix is alive and kicking under Sharon Watson’s leadership. Reflected deliberately raises expectations and there is the added pressure of this being the company’s 30th anniversary year.
There are two important world premieres in the programme, from Richard Wherlock and Watson, a first UK performance for Philip Taylor’s What it Is and a dip into the Phoenix repertoire for Pave Up Paradise, the Mad Dog duo’s comic take on sin and general sexual naughtiness.
Wherlock’s Switch opens the programme. He began by simply “turning up with an open mind, a few CDs [by B.free] and seeing what the dancers could do”. The result is alive with intricate movement and complex duets. Perhaps not as cleanly lined as would be expected from Wherlock but scorching in its intensity. A constant physical jigsaw. Leeds-born Taylor’s absorbing What it Is involves three dancers and their emotional torment. Its studied, slow-motioned confrontations are bathed in anguish.
The programme concludes with Sharon Watson’s Melt. Created in the company’s new studio, where there are high ceilings, it has sublime aerial work. Not with the dancers soaring but working just above the ground, taking away the restriction of gravity. A beguiling sequence, summing up the piece, has dancers Josh Wille and Azzurra Ardovini spinning at different levels on the same rope and lit by concentric circles.
Watson and her dancers have thrust Phoenix into a new era.