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Until Without Enough/TearFall/Bloom review at Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House – ‘uneven mixed bill’

Cast of Phoenix Dance Theatre's Bloom. Photo: Brian Slater Cast of Phoenix Dance Theatre's Bloom. Photo: Brian Slater
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Caroline Finn’s Bloom is the saving grace of Phoenix Dance Theatre’s latest mixed bill. Each year, the Leeds-based troupe tours a programme of three or four works by contemporary dance makers, from abstract athleticism to character-based drama. Finn’s piece falls into the latter category, albeit in an absurdist, cabaret-esque vein, with a nod to the fairground grotesquerie of the not-seen-enough choreographer Lea Anderson.

Bloom shows the Phoenix dancers thoroughly enjoying themselves, dressed like lost circus or music hall characters, their faced painted, and gestures manic – the solo to Miss Lucy Had Some Leeches is especially strong. An emcee-type character writhes on the floor to find his jacket and microphone, only to show little leadership of the troupe of wandering souls. There are solos and duets, and an ingenious trundling table-and-chair prop on which they career around the stage. The piece confirms the Phoenix dancers are adept actors as well as able dancers, something much less obvious from the other two works on the programme.

These are broadly abstract dance pieces, free of props and overt acting. However, although the programme explains them at length – TearFall is about the “biochemical make-up of tears [and] how [their] appearance is affected by different emotional states” and Until Without Enough explores “the enclosed space that exist within our minds” – their subject is difficult to discern from the choreographic language. The dancers perform with considerable commitment, but they could be dancing about almost anything. Music for both also lacks choreographic connection. Costume and lighting design for TearFall has charm, although for Until Without Enough has less visual appeal.

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Uneven mixed bill that demonstrates the Phoenix dancers are as adept at acting as they are at dancing