Holly Noble of Antique Dances - now A D Dance Company - held her first platform at Actor's Church in Covent Garden in August 2010, and since then they have become a regular occurrence, featuring six new and emerging companies at a time. Unlike other platforms, the emphasis is on the setting - in an active church - and on "DIY dance", as coined by Libby Costello for Londondance.com: it's all about the dance, with the minimum of frills.
The lineup for the recent platform was of particular interest to us, as five out of the six companies have performed in Cloud Dance Festival, including two pieces performed at our last festival; due to circumstances, however, this was the first time I'd seen either piece.
Diciembre Dance Group's Lewis After Wonderland opened the show, with Fausto Izzi, as Lewis Carroll, kneeling at the front of the stage with a feather pen in his hand, while Lucía Piquero ran across the stage. Although the programme notes indicated that the piece was about the future of the real-life Alice after Wonderland was written, the interaction between the two dancers suggested that Lucía Piquero's character was that of the fictional Alice, trying to retain Carroll's attention to ensure that her creator won't forget about her. The piece ended with the tender scene of Piquero curled up with her head in Carroll's lap, a beautiful moment to conclude on.
Diciembre Dance Group have been very prolific over the last few years, and this piece demonstrates Lucía Piquero's maturity and skill as a choreographer, featuring some tender duets between herself and Izzi and some astonishing solos by Izzi. Although Fausto Izzi is not a full-time member of the company - he was replacing co-choreographer Andrea Santato on this oocasion, we can only hope to see lots more from him in the future; his performance was definitely the highlight of the evening.
The second company of the evening was Beyond Repair Dance performing Room. Choreographed by Jane Coulston, it showed the Cunninghamesque influences of her earlier works, contrasting between slow deliberate movements and the use of poses and balances, and faster-paced dynamic sequences.
Room is a dense work; it's easy to imagine it with strong lighting to emphasise Coulston's choreography, and with stark images in projection to complement the theme and music of the piece.
Stewart Kennedy Dance Company's No Tomorrow was the final piece of the first section of the night, and a complete contrast with Beyond Repair Dance with the physicality and vigour of Kennedy's choreography. The programme notes described this piece as being about despair and the dancers pushing themselves to the limits: we could see this in the intensity with which the dancers would throw themselves to the ground, interspersed with meditative sections. The only criticism of this piece is that there was too much floorwork for a venue without raked seating; little of it will have been visible to those not sitting in the front row.
Although Kennedy's career in dance has started comparatively recently, he has an impressive grasp of pacing and dramatic tension, and has extremely interesting and fresh choreographic ideas and a good team of dancers, especially Yaun Teerachie. We'll definitely be keeping an eye out to see what Kennedy does next!
As James Finnemore was still on tour with Hofesh Shechter, his solo Patriot was performed by Erik Lobelius.
Patriot's programme notes lead you to believe that it will be a solo about repetition, but in fact it is a simple exploration of movement, especially toying with gravity and the point at which he'll fall. It is fascinating to watch: you can clearly see the improvisation behind the creation of the piece, but that is a large part of the appeal, as we watch Erik Lobelius perform Hofesh-style movements, or repeatedly clap, as though to savour the quality of sound, or lope across the stage, nearly falling.... but not quite.
Patriot was one of the strongest pieces of the evening, with the audience spellbound throughout. Let's hope that James Finnemore performs this again, and soon.
Exquisite Corpse Dance Theatre made a very dramatic impression on the Cloud Dance Festival audiences back in July, and ROMA is their first work since then, created during a summer residency in Prague.
The highlight of ROMA was a powerful, near-aggressive duet between Gary Rowntree and Dani Atkinson, starting with him spinning her around with her arms around her neck, and culminating in him stripping off her top and leaving her there to recover, semi-naked.
Exquisite Corpse Dance Theatre continued the neoclassical theme of the evening, with their striking choreography interspersed with dramatic poses - but it would have been better had they rationed their use of splits, as their impact lessened considerably througout the piece.
Frustratingly, the programme notes didn't hint at the subject matter of the piece; without knowing what it was about, ROMA seemed a little too long and abstract to sustain the audience's interest.
The final company of the evening was Holly Noble's A D Dance Company, performing their latest work, FAWN, a series of duets and quartets created in response to Mozart's Requiem. Of all the pieces this evening, this one was evidently created with Actor's Church in mind, with the music, costumes and choreography forming a natural accompaniment to the backdrop of the church's altar.
Performed by eight dancers, the choreography was the music brought to life, with beautiful poses and slow, reverent movements as suggested by the music. FAWN opened with all eight dancers on stage, but then followed this with a series of duets, allowing the individual dancers to stand out, and for the duets to reflect the dancers' abilities; Chandelle Allen in particular stood out with the most beautiful duet of the evening, partnered by Brett Murray.
A D Dance Company performed Slowly We Collide at Ingenium, their previous platform at Actor's Church in May 2011, and FAWN shows how much the company has grown, and how much more confident Holly Noble is in her choreography for her company: FAWN is easily her best work to date.