‘Windrush’ is a stunning new new dance creation by the fabulous Phoenix Dance Company. This joyous work celebrates all that the Caribbean community brought to the UK, when they were called to the mother country 70 years ago, to help rebuild it after the war. This is an incredibly creative and life affirming narrative piece which had the audience at Northern Stage in Newcastle gripped from start to finish.
Brought to life by a wonderfully talented mix of dancers, designers and choreographers from around the world, this colourful, accessible piece also has fantastic original music by Christella Litras which melds a host of musical styles (and some old favourites) and was very much right up my street! Everything from Folk to Calypso, to Disco, to Mento music (google it,) was employed to draw you into the thread of the narrative. The piece tells the story of the Windrush generation, who left their sunny Caribbean homelands, to come and fill the jobs left vacant by the devastation that the terrible war had visited upon our population. These people had high hopes for their future here, and the story takes us through their journey, some leaving loved ones behind to be sent for later.
They arrived on this cold and cloudy island at Tillbury docks on the SS Windrush and soon faced racism and discrimination in the workplace and in society. Time moves on and they begin to integrate with the population, start relationships here and bring their love of religion and music into our post war world. What the people of Windrush brought to the party – was – the party!
Dance is a universal international language, and the cast bring personality and their own dance dimensions to the story. The talk at the end of the show with the cast and the creative team including Sharon Watson the Artistic Director, illuminated the creative process that enables a company to fashion such a new work. It is clear that these lucky and talented repertory dancers are empowered to add their own ideas to this process. The costumes were gorgeous. Incidentally, if there’s a man that looks better in a pair of high waisted trousers with a white shirt and braces than Prentice Whitlow, I’d like to see them!
Special mention must go to the first piece we saw – Calyx -which was created by Sandrine Monin, one of the company’s dancers. It was a complex technical expression of the possibilities of relationships, inspired by Baudelaire’s book of poems, Flowers of Evil. This kind of conceptual piece needs to be very very good, or it can come across as self indulgent and often leaves the audience reaching for their wine gums. Not in this case – it was brilliant! A fascinating intelligent textured exploration of love, entrapment, coercion, conflict and jealousy – it was all in there! It had men putting women in boxes, watching them and manipulating them and finally partnering them. The innovative original music by Roberto David Rusconi was other wordly, and a treat for the ears.
Phoenix Dance are still on top of their game after more than thirty years in the competitive world of contemporary dance, their education programme is second to none and it was a great pleasure to see that quality and imagination brought to life once again in an exceptional live performance.