Phoenix Dance Theatre, Black Waters / The Rite of Spring / Windrush

Art Direction · Campaign · Identity · Illustration · Print

We’re privileged to have collaborated with the internationally renowned contemporary dance company Phoenix Dance Theatre to create the artwork for Windrush: Movement of the People, the double bill The Rite of Spring & Left Unseen and, most recently, Black Waters.

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Black Waters

Black Waters presents two challenging narratives of British colonial rule. In the late 18th century, the owners of the Zong ship attempted to claim insurance on the lives of the 130 slaves that they threw overboard, and over 100 years later the Kala Pani prison was used by British colonial forces to incarcerate Indian freedom fighters who spoke out against the regime.

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Black Waters presents audiences with a wider exploration of how British colonial forces commodified people for gain, and as a consequence, saw a blending of cultures and the birth of fragmented identities for whom home has always remained a contested space.

The design, based on this history, is intended to increase the visibility of people of colour in dance and challenge audiences to see and acknowledge our past – something we must all do if we are to emerge from the waves of structural racism emanating from the subjugation and commodification of people of colour for profit.

Black Waters premiered at Leeds Playhouse in February 2020.

Art Direction & Design by Split. Photography by David Lindsay.

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Double Bill: The Rite of Spring / Left Unseen

This ambitious pair of images was created with the dancers of Phoenix Dance Theatre, who precisely matched each others’ head, limb and body positions – even their exact line of sight – in mid flight.

The split bodies, reflecting the double bill, also signify the themes of the headline work The Rite of Spring. Rather than a single, female sacrifice as in Nijinsky’s iconic ballet, famously scored by Stravinsky, Jeanguy Saintus’ choreography reconsiders the concept of sacrifice, exploring concepts of group offerings and initiations into the vodou religion in Haitian culture.

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The flowers worked through the image are of both European and Caribbean origin and were specially selected for their significations which include sacrifice, death and femininity. They were photographed over several weeks as they decayed, before being worked into the image.

Art Direction, Post Production and Design by Split. Photography by David Lindsay.  Floriography by Sophie Thompson.

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Windrush: Movement of the People

Marking the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush, the ship that brought the first large group of immigrants from the Caribbean to the UK, Windrush: Movement of the People is a major new dance piece by Phoenix Dance Theatre, choreographed by Sharon Watson.

We were thrilled to be asked to create the design for the campaign for this timely work. Reflecting the references to fashion and culture throughout Sharon’s choreography, the campaign design takes inspiration from the wallpaper patterns of the time, taking us from Caribbean homes of the 50s, to the living rooms of the UK.

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The campaign was designed – like the work itself – to stand out from anything else in the contemporary dance scene. The opening tour played to packed houses across the UK and glowing reviews and we’re proud to have been a small part of this work’s journey.

Art Direction & Design by Split. Photography by Richard Moran.

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