DANCE | Left Unseen & The Rite of Spring – Phoenix Dance Theatre

Manon Adrianow & Vanessa Vince-Pang in Amaury Lebrun’s Left Unseen for Phoenix Dance Theatre. Photo: Drew Forsyth.

Twinned with JEANGUY SAINTUS’s seductive reimagining of Stravinsky, AMAURY LEBRUN’s Left Unseen at CAST in Doncaster was the perfect midweek night out. Words: VANESSA MUDD

Commissioned by Northern School of Contemporary Dance for its New Ground strand, French choreographer Amaury Lebrun‘s Left Unseen was given the extended remix treatment by Phoenix Dance Theatre at the impressive glass and concrete CAST in Doncaster.

The piece is pure joy, its shifting harmony of shapes a rhythmic afterimage of mathematical forming and reforming. Lebrun has characterised his work as an exposition of what it means to be alone in the crowd. Utilising the five senses, it pulses and shimmers. The company comes together and moves apart like a murmuration of starlings. The dancers divide and multiply as if they were cells under a microscope.

Vanessa Vince-Pang, Natalie Alleston, Aaron Chaplin, Carmen Vazquez Marfil, Carlos J. Martinez, Michael Marquez & Manon Adrianow in Amaury Lebrun’s Left Unseen for Phoenix Dance Theatre. Photo: Drew Forsyth.

There is evocative use of sound and silence, movement and stillness. The climate of Mark Baker‘s lighting – hard-edged chiaroscuro one moment, a breathy soft damask the next – matches the muscular choreography.

Left Unseen teases and pleases the senses before giving way to its own stark intensity. It harnesses melancholic yearning, the dancers’ bodies seamlessly blending like an ouroboros. The juxtaposition between slower individual or paired pieces and the full cast hints at a sublimated violence or some just out of reach sorrow. As a work, it is a beautiful, immersive stretch of the contemporary dance imagination.

Manon Adrianow and Carlos J. Martinez in Amaury Lebrun’s Left Unseen for Phoenix Dance Theatre. Photo: Drew Forsyth.

Premiered to great acclaim back in January, Haitian choreographer Jeanguy Saintus‘s reimagining of Stravinsky‘s The Rite of Spring for Opera North arrives at Cast sans live orchestra and the dwarfing surroundings of Leeds Grand Theatre, and *whispers* is the better for it.

Here on a smaller, more intimate stage, performed by a re-invigorated and tour-hardened company, Rite is a much darker and complex piece. Sat close to the stage, the impact of the twitching rhythms feels more intense – the dancers more truly possessed – as the tendrils of the ritual itself embrace us. The green and red gorging of hands, coupled with the white and covert primaries of Yann Seabra’s effusive costume designs, make this a Matisse painting sprung to vivid appetent life.

Aaron Chaplin, Carlos J. Martinez, Natalie Alleston, Vanessa Vince-Pang, Michael Marquez, Prentice Whitlow, Carmen Vazquez Marfil and Manon Adrianow in The Rite of Spring, choreographed by Jeanguy Saintus for Phoenix Dance Theatre and Opera North. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Again there is power and intensity in the winding of limbs and bodies. Semi acrobatic moves emphasise strength, precision and the emotional significance of the ritual as Saintus urges his dancers to wrest Haitian’s voudun back from Hollywood’s withering clutches.

A showcase for the fantastic talent nurtured at Phoenix Dance Theatre, as well as the pan-international scope of its ambitions, the exceptional choreography and exacting precision of this brilliant pairing, make it one to catch.

Interview with Jeanguy Saintus.

Review of The Rite of Spring and Gianni Schicchi at Opera North.

Left Unseen and The Rite of Spring are on tour across the UK. Details here.