Published: Wednesday, 26 September 2012 00:13
Written by Lewis Wheeler
The opening performance of the third semifinal of The Place Prize was Nina Kov’s Copter, a trio for one human, Kov, and two radio-controlled helicopters. The Copter was tantalisingly present onstage as the audience filed in; like the best of poetic metaphors, its presence suggested that unusual and enlightening interplays between its flight and Kov’s human movement would be explored. While Copter explored various spatial relationships between The Copter and Kov, there was a lack of correlation between the other qualities of their movement. Where direct similarities and contrasts were present, the composition did not highlight these, leaving a less than picture.
Multiple thematic ideas were referenced including helicopter gun-ship attacks, surveillance and drones, but mostly the piece focussed on Kov playing with a childlike fascination with the anthropomorphised toy. While The Copter was expertly puppeteered by Jack Bishop to display a greater range of emotion than indeed Kov herself did, little to no time was spent exploring why this had come about. The lifting of the rotor blade and the final spinning phrase could have been very poignant but only if the previous 20 minutes had been more provocative.
Neil Paris’s The Devil’s Mischief opened with a vision of Mordor in peaked cones across the stage. According to Paris's original proposal, this duet, danced superbly by Carly Best and Sarah Lewis, explored the ambiguous, codependent relationship between humanity and the devil, however there was little evidence of this beyond red lighting and the Mordor-like set design.
The piece started as a disquieting yet tender duet, with tension so palpable that even the merest intention of one dancer to move was felt by the other. Unfortunately, while still being interesting from a movement perspective, the piece gradually dulled from this promising beginning. The intriguing and complex non-linear narrative, which had been delicately developed during the opening sequence, was initially impeded by the proscriptive vocals and then further maligned by the gradual revealing of the letters on the cones. Whereas on a micro scale the work was richly textured and complex, on a macro scale it strayed from concept to conceit.
The standout work of the evening was bgroup’s A Short-Lived Alteration Of An Existing Situation, choreographed by Ben Wright in collaboration with his dancers Sam Denton and Lise Manavit. The piece extensively explored its drily-stated theme through multiple changes to its movement content and dynamics, each change serving to build upon, enrich and develop the dancers’ relationship within the duet. Dry ice, stark lighting and industrial clanking and clanging noises within the soundscape invoked a heady, underground, Gotham City-inspired atmosphere and the absence of text-based elements allowed more room for the audience’s own imaginative response.
The programming of the evening became progressively more pure dance-oriented, culminating in Darren Ellis’s Revolver. This was danced with an ice-coolness by Hannah Kidd and Joanna Wenger to live music by The Turbulent Eddies, including Darren Ellis himself on guitar. Visually reminiscent of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, although without the Beethoven, the piece combined endless robotic cyclical movements with live music and flashing lights. As with the dispassionate and relentless violence in Kubrick’s film, this piece felt like Ellis was trying to perform a similar act on the audience through dance while also evoking Rosas' early works, especially Rosas & Ictus. With such strong cultural references, it was hard to appreciate Revolver in its own right: as a potential remake of Rosas & Ictus it was gripping and ambitious, however as a work exploring dancers ‘moving constantly in a clockwise direction’, it wasn't a rewarding audience experience.
Overall, the evening’s performances were stimulating enough to firmly hold attention all the way through, but for the most part weren’t satisfying enough to come away thinking what a great night at the theatre it had been. Deservedly, bgroup came top of the night’s audience poll, but unfortunately just missed garnering a high enough score to take them through to the Place Prize Finals on that basis.
Published: Sunday, 23 September 2012 04:19
Written by Chantal Guevara
And so it's over. After many months of buildup, sixteen works and eight performances, the suspense is over and we now know which four works will be competing in the Place Prize finals in April 2013. But let's not get ahead of ourselves: tonight was about the final four companies competing, and about a grand finale by Goddard Nixon and Seke Chimuntengwende.
The opening piece was Eva Rechacha's 'The Wishing Well', a whimsical piece exploring the relationship between Recacha's voiceover and performer Martha Pasakopoulou, Recacha sometimes narrating Martha's movements, sometimes issuing instructions, sometimes telling the audience about Martha's inner world, for example explaining how Martha's mental block about the number ten was due to her parents meeting on 10 October, making 10 a doubly sinister number. The movement was largely mime-driven, using Rechacha's vocal instructions as a starting point, whether expansive movements indicating Martha's wishes, or curling up in a tight little ball to suggest moments of regression.
While The Wishing Well could have easily been less than it was, Martha Pasakopoulou was endearing to watch, either marching around the stage singing militant Greek songs or in her eager willingness to obey Recacha, slowly giving way to rebellion. And yet, using what seemed to be predominantly improvised movement, The Wishing Well lacked the choreographic strengths and structure of her last Place Prize commission 'Begin To Begin'.
The second work of the evening was Settlement by Robbie Synge, which sought to investigate our relationship with the built and natural environments by using two dancers (Robin Dingemans and Erik Nevin) and three sheets of chipboard, exploring the different ways in which they could interact with each other. We saw the dancers rearrange the boards, hide behind them, become part of the sculpture, shifting the planks, letting them fall, not letting them fall, playing with suspension and limits.
Settlement is a piece which could easily continue indefinitely, as Synge discovers and explores yet more ideas, for Settlement is very much a collection of ideas, one following on from another, never having the chance to build upon each other or developing into anything more.
If The Place Prize was simply about the best dance performance, then Goddard Nixon - former Rambert dancers Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon - would have easily been the obvious winners. Two fantastic dancers at the peak of their abilities, they've performed works by some of the top contemporary dance choreographers, living or dead, and it's rare to see dancers of their calibre in such an intimate setting.
In a departure from their previous abstract works, Third is set in an Antartic environment, exploring the uneasiness of being in a hostile setting, battling the elements and not knowing what's out there beyond the mist and snow. It opened with a subdued start, Goddard wearily looking out at the audience while sitting on Nixon's supine form. Using lithe, graceful movements, we saw them explore their surroundings, becoming ever more fearful; despite the complete implicit trust in their partnership, we saw their characters' uncertainty with each other. And as Third never reached a conclusive end, it's easy to imagine the characters are still trapped there, isolated and defenceless.
It's rare to find people who are both impressively gifted as dancers and as choreographers, but Goddard and Nixon are both, and their growing maturity as choreographers can be seen in Third, a more ambitious work than their previous pieces, effectively balancing speed with more languid sections, and opportunities for both dancers to shine individually.
Seke Chimuntengwende is known for his unique brand of improvisation, humour and theatricality, and it was expected that he would create something special for his first Place Prize commission, 'The Time Travel Piece'. At the start, he explained that he'd been invited to participate in a time travel experiment, travelling to the years 2085, 2501 and 2042, watching a dance performance in each time, but alas was unable to record any of the performances or bring any dancers back with him, so for our benefit, he has recreated the works with the best dancers he could find.
In 2085, he explained, scientists were exploring nanotechnology and not only had choreographers picked up on this by using nanomovements, but also "audiences' powers of perception have increased dramatically". The performance which followed saw his dancers shifting imperceptibly, to the audience's hilarity, which soon petered out as Seke allowed this section to extend till both his performers and audience felt thoroughly awkward and embarrassed.
The next two sections were far briefer, portraying different scenarios: time travel being endemic in 2501, allowing people to rehearse indefinitely, and so create one signature movement which will define them as dancers, and time being too short in 2042 to actually rehearse, treating us to the sight of Seke manically demonstrating various movements then leaving his dancers to muddle through them.
Seke's enthusiasm was irresistibly infectious, and it's easy to see why this was the audience favourite of the night, and after Seke's 'Mr Lawrence' closed the Resolution! season earlier this year, it seemed most appropriate for for Seke to close the Place Prize with a fresh injection of irreverent humour.
The Place Prize does like being controversial - or more accurately, stimulating discussions about the Place Prize and dance in general - and the shortlisting of Eva Recacha, Rick Nodine, Riccardo Buscarini and audience favourite h2dance for the finals may have surprised many people, but at least they now have six months to further develop their works. Let's see what the Finals bring us....
Audience voting scores:
Seke Chimuntengwende: 3.5
Goddard Nixon: 3.2
Robbie Synge: 3.2
Eva Recacha: 2.9
The Place Prize returns on 17 April 2013, with the Final Final taking place on 27 April; tickets are now on sale and can be bought here: www.theplace.org.uk/634/whats-on/listings.html