Despite what the Arts Council and other authorities say, there is a definite shortage of contemporary dance platforms in London, which has led to independent platforms such as ourselves, and company-driven platforms such as AD Dance Company's Platform AD. The obvious pitfall of either is when a platform curator's career takes off at exactly the same time that a platform is underway: AD Dance Company's artistic director Holly Noble is currently working with Wayne McGregor, recently premiered her newest work in front of an audience including occasional Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and has recently been appointed the artistic director of English National Ballet's youth company - it must be hard enough to juggle all those roles without making time for platform preparations as well. Consequently, this edition of Platform AD has been woefully underpublicised, resulting in far smaller audiences than normal.
Churches are not natural venues for dance performances - not least because contemporary dance choreographers have a tendency to include a significant amount of floorwork - however Actor's Church looked particularly enchanting, with a haze machine puffing out smoke from the pulpit.
The opening piece, You Remind Me of Someone I Once Knew by CODA Dance was an exceptionally strong work drawing on choreographer Nikki Watson's experiences of watching a close family member suffer from multiple sclerosis. Most of us have probably heard of one or more sufferers of MS; probably one of the most famous sufferers was cello prodigy Jacqueline du Pré, whose life was portrayed in the fictional biopic 'Hilary and Jackie'.
Someone I Once Knew shows the effects of a debilitating illness through the performances by Keren Smail and Georgia Godfrey, both portraying very different characters but both similarly afflicted. There was some very creative partnerwork between the two dancers, displaying their interesting relationship which veered between tender and confrontational. While the storytelling is a little obscure, the choreography accurately reflects the frenetic movements of MS sufferers. Nikki Watson has seamlessly blended physical theatre with contemporary dance and created a beautiful yet powerful piece.
Replica Dance Company's 4:14 was next, telling the story of "travel and love in 1930s New York". In effect, it's two pieces in one: while it contains heartbreakingly beautiful partnerwork, the core duets are at odds with its pedestrian storyline of two people who both miss a train and slowly get to know each other while waiting for the next train to arrive.
Hannily Bendell and Thomas Pickard are very charismatic performers: their vivid personalities engage the audience and make you want to know more about their characters and their journeys.
Maybe Bendell and Pickard will decide to divide 4:14 into two pieces and develop the 30s travel storyline further, and develop the partnerwork into a separate piece in its own right. But until then, it's a very good taster of what Replica Dance Company is capable of - and those duets certainly deserve multiple viewings.
After an interval, the next performance was by Gary Clarke in collaboration with all-male youth dance company Edge FWD, and considering its title "A Beautiful Hell", they indeed portrayed a vivid hell on stage - among many other themes. 'A Beautiful Hell' seemed to be a medley of Edge FWD's works, performing a wide range of theatrical skills, but oddly reminiscent of the hyena episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Pack, in which the characters maintain their pack mentality, whether laughing hysterically at the audience or brutally attacking one of their own. While it sought to explore the world of the outsider through the medium of a boys' boarding school, the abuse seemed to be unnecessarily brutal and violent.
But while "Joe" was not being beaten up, and while the boys weren't stumbling into the audience, crying, seeking people to hug, they gave an astonishing and hypnotic performance with powerfully dynamic choreography. And if anyone doubts the benefits of youth dance schemes, they only have to watch this piece to witness the amazing talents of Edge FWD's dancers.
After several years of sharing the artistic directorship of Udifydance Company with Chay Burrows, Christopher Reynolds is now the sole director of the company, and with the platform's press releases advertising a piece about the effects of social media, it appeared that Reynolds would be taking the company in a new direction. That was not to be the case; And When We Move is a lengthy abstract work, primarily about creating shapes in space, and exploring Udifydance's signature movement style. Ex-Transitions dancer Mark Farrant immediately stood out: he's the kind of dancer who makes everything pause while you watch him, with a pantherlike movement quality which far outshone Reynolds' and Zack Dennis's performances. The emotional intensity of the piece reached its peak in a duet between Farrant and Reynolds, however to the audience, it appeared as a private conversation between the two where we can only watch but not listen in. And When We Move is not one of Udifydance's more exciting pieces, but it's worth watching to see Mark Farrant's performance.
At odds with the strong contemporary dance content of the evening was a balletic finale from AD Dance Company, performing Memento for the second time (see here for full review of Memento). An obvious problem of choreographing for church performances is a lack of performance space, however Memento benefitted greatly from the deeper space of Actors' Church, and Memento appeared far more polished and confident than at its premiere. In addition, it's far easier to appreciate the dancers' performances without the distraction of a full orchestra directly behind them. Rachel Maybank's performance was exceptionally captivating.
Memento was created in collaboration with composer Jeremy Holland-Smith who created six distinct movements, each inspired by a specific image and the significance each image held for him. While this information enhanced the previous viewing of Memento, its absence made Memento perhaps more abstract than necessary.
Despite the stronger performances tonight, Memento still isn't in the league of works such as FAWN and Ternion - and while we can look forward to the next work, we can also look forward to a different costume!
While it's a mixed bag of an evening, this edition of Platform AD has many strong performances, and many reminders of what we love most about contemporary dance from a range of exciting emerging choreographers.