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Gruelling And Poetic

Gruelling And Poetic
Written by Phil Sanger  09/02/2014

Ahead of the debut of internationally acclaimed Leeds based Phoenix Dance Theatre’s 2014 Mixed Programme, dancer Phil Sanger gives us his behind the scenes take on preparations for the upcoming world premiere at West Yorkshire Playhouse from February 12-15.

"It’s 8pm and I’m ready for my bed. I am here at my desk with glass of wine by my side because I am told it has medicinal qualities when you need to ease out the muscles; and ease them out I must. Another Phoenix Dance Theatre premiere is just one week away and we have been working solidly since Christmas. Right now my body feels taxed and aching - like I’ve already done a whole season and so the wine is necessary, even if it just gets me through this blog. 

This will be my sixth premiere with the company and each year I assume they will get easier but when we get back from our Christmas break there is always a lot of work to be done. We need to hit the ground running and it is nothing less than an uphill climb.

Obviously, we all had to shift a bit of holiday weight and start to re-build our stamina levels after eating, drinking and being merry but we are also subject to a fair share of mental work too and this can often be more draining than the movement. The work for the production precedes the premiere by at least 12 months. In the main we have been working on other events and tours and so January and February bring the business of remembering the show. This can be quite a bother as a dancer is partial to a bit of debate when it comes to who is right and wrong with counts and sometimes revisiting work can feel like learning something completely new, but we all survive somehow.

Things are settling down nicely and as the choreography is getting familiar we find ourselves starting to be a little more expressive and indulgent. It’s three months since we have been on stage now so as the new work becomes more stage ready we are allowed to flex our performance muscles a bit. We start to feel like artists again and then, as we roll into production week, the magic happens.

Production week will be amazing! The only thing is we have to have the patience for the long days and often I don’t! So many inspiring artists are treading the boards at this time and I love sitting back and watch the glamour unfurl. 

The choreographers of my favourite piece of the evening spent three days with us recently, primarily to add the lights and oversee the last few production details of their work.  A few magic words from the choreographers can often take the movement into a whole new world. They push us to our limits, forcing us to explore the extremities of our bodies. It’s difficult work, with so much articulation of the spine we are suffering from whiplash and dizziness at times but even in the studio rehearsals, the piece is such an immersive experience that I know it is going to have a huge impact on the audience. 

This kind of work excites me - high impact, challenging and defiantly thought provoking. It will be meaningful theatre to say the least and what makes it even more exciting is that this is only the second time this choreographic duo have ever presented work in the UK before so it’s a privilege to be one of the dancers involved. I won’t give anything else away except to say even though it is gruelling, hard-core and relentless it is poetic too - and I can’t wait to share it."

Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Mixed Programme 2014 will be showing at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Quarry Hill, Leeds from February 12th-15th. Tickets start at £12 from the box office on 0113 213 7700 or online at www.wyp.org.uk

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