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 Post subject: Phoenix Dance Theatre - from 2007
PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2007 2:44 pm 

Joined: Sat Aug 23, 2003 11:01 pm
Posts: 6778
Location: Estonia
Phoenix Dance Theatre
by JUDUTH MACKRELL for the Guardian
published: June 5, 2007

Los Picadores, the work that closes his company's new programme, starts to drive the public away before the show is even over.
Set to Stravinsky's Les Noces, this is De Frutos at his most confrontational as he attempts to express the savagery inherent in the score. Using a ferociously amplified recording, whose singers sound, bizarrely, like a warrior tribe of Mongolians, he choreographs the work as an eroticised Fight Club, its cast of six men and women dripping blood as they appear to screw and batter each other to death.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 10:01 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:01 am
Posts: 142
Location: London
Phoenix Dance Theatre
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London
Friday 1 June 2007

The Leeds based contemporary dance company returned to Sadler’s Wells in June for just a couple of days with a new and exciting programme. This was the first time the company appeared in London since Javier de Frutos took over its Artistic Direction and there was obvious excitement and interest in the theatre to see his work.

De Frutos has been a well known choreographer for British audiences thanks to his work for Rambert, Phoenix and more recently, his West End success “Cabaret”.

His arrival to Phoenix has had a galvanising effect on the company that appeared more cohesive in both their stylistic approach to the pieces they presented and, most importantly, in the choice of repertoire itself than in last year’s visit.

The evening opened with Henri Oguike’s “Signal”. The piece was really impressive, not only in its use of a rich vocabulary of movement, but in its spatial patterns and rhythmic structures. The dancers were really shown to their best advantage and it was good to have such a strong opening piece.

Next came de Frutos’s enthusiastic attempt at restoring the notion of repertoire in the context of contemporary dance. Jane Dudley’s “Harmonica Breakdown” was danced by Kialea-Nadine Williams and what a wonderful solo performance it was! The solo still looks fresh and compelling to watch, the focus of the dancer on her movements really breathtaking. It was a really wonderful revival.

The second part of the programme consisted of de Frutos’s “Paseillo”, a lyrical piece set to music by Mozart. The piece was sensual and sexual and yet, and despite the fact that de Frutos makes no attempt to disguise any of these aspects, the lyricism of the piece stands out in a way that it manages to take the piece into a completely different artistic level. The choreographic framework in which the various duets, trios and group numbers weaved in and out was so strong and so carefully constructed that it made the content of the piece –suppressed desires and sexual tensions- all the more powerful.

The evening finished with “Los Picadores”, set to Strawinsky’s music “Les Noces” and again choreographed by Javier de Frutos. This is de Frutos’s latest creation and, though I cannot say I loved it, I have to admit that it kept me engaged. I have a problem with new reworkings of “Les Noces”, as I still regard Bronislava Nijinska’s masterpiece difficult to match. De Frutos, at least, does not attempt to do that, which is something to thank him for. The piece is about sex and violence, which are recurring topics in the choreographer’s work. However, the problem with the way the piece is structured – and unlike “Paseillo”- is that the beginning is so strong and powerful that the rest of the piece does not really take you any further than that. Though the dancers are totally committed to the choreography, they do not seem capable to engage their audiences. There are no climaxes, no journeys… and in fact the ending was all but a surprise, as there was no context for it.

Overall it was a very good evening. The company looks great and the dancers had choreography they could really dance and enjoy. It was a long time London had seen such a rich and varied evening of contemporary dance.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 11:07 am 

Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 19975
Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
The reviews from Ana and Judith Mackrell, reflect a very exciting evening of dance, with deFrutos on a roll with his choreography and his artistic choices. Rambert gave an impressive offering at Sadler's the week before, but one of their dancers, no names, no pack drill, told me that the Phoenix programme was superior in his view.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 10:45 am 

Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2001 11:01 pm
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Location: Rugby, UK / Taipei
Phoenix Dance Theatre have announced that artistic director Javier de Frutos is leaving his position by mutual agreement to allow him to focus on developing new projects.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 7:44 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 27, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 3378
Location: Canada
Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like 'mutual agreement' at all according to a recent article in the Guardian. ... s.equality

Apparently the Board wanted the company to go back to it's black roots. Which apparently means losing out on an acclaimed director, working with Christopher Wheeldon and a Paul Taylor revival. These are opportunities most companies would love to have and wouldn't think of letting slip away! (I doubt the latter two opportunities are likely to be on the table without deFrutos since he was heavily involved in the revival and Wheeldon isn't likely to have time to reschedule or even want to work with another director.)

I don't know much about Phoenix, but quotas of any type worry me. Certainly we should always be working towards diversity in dance, but I don't think the UK is a place that can support much in the way of all black modern dance or ballet troupes. A quick glance at stats (from Wikipedia which could be inaccurate and is from 2001), only 2% of the population of the UK identifies themselves as black, black-carribean or black-african. Which means that if one was to create a company that reflected strictly the overall diversity, only 1 in 50 dancers should self identify as black. You might well allow more in more racially diverse areas such as London or other large cities. Based strictly on stats, people of South-Asian/Indian descent could be said to be much more under-represented. (In the US, I agree that statistically African/Carribean Americans are well under-represented). And even in the 'caucasian world' there are whole countries which struggle to produce enough dancers for one ballet company or modern dance troupe - think Denmark (I think the RDB now has more non-Danish men than Danish men), Scotland, Wales, etc etc.

I find the one current (the first) response interesting. Yes, there certainly is a long and rich history of dance in Africa and the Carribean, but it wasn't ballet (recent Cuba excepted) or contemporary dance per se. So perhaps the answer is not to struggle to keep up a black contemporary dance company, but invest in companies that start out with African dance as a basis and move on from there. But not to think black - even Alvin Ailey DT and DT of Harlem in the US embrace diversity and are the better for it. If people of African descent (which DOES include some Caucasiod people) are to be encouraged to take up ballet, why should those of European descent be encouraged to take up African dance. Dance should be based on talent, not skin pigmentation. So diversity should come from increased opportunity at the training level, not hiring choices.

I would think that the way to increase diversity is to start from the bottom - you have to have a certain quality of dancers and that takes training. So you need to overcome the barriers - money/finance, anti-dance sentiments among peers etc. If you want young people to dance - whatever their ethnicity/race - they need to have places to learn, funds for classes, clothes and transport and a community that supports their choice. With those in mind, perhaps the best way to promote dance is to work to reduce poverty and open minds. And there doesn't seem to be any easy answer for either the problem of closed minds or poverty. For now, I think the dance world's best answer is to give youth of ALL ethnicities as much exposure to dance as possible and to be generous with scholarships to help support people who can't afford training.

As an aside, I would think the board could fast find themselves in trouble if they fire and hire to make a company 'blacker'. That's got to violate anti-discrimination laws, which certainly must apply if they are to get any public money or grants for corporations/foundations that have anti-discrimination clauses (most these days).


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