Dance: Beats, The Place, London

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The Independent Culture

The week-long Dance: Beats festival at The Place theatre has an emphasis on hip hop and a readiness to go beyond it.

The week-long Dance: Beats festival at The Place theatre has an emphasis on hip hop and a readiness to go beyond it. The programme I saw included salsa and dramatic dancing as well as hip hop and martial arts-influenced dances. Earlier in the week, you could see flamenco and breakdancing.

The dances, chosen by Rajpal Singh Pardesi, are a mix of new and recent work. Rafael Bonachela, the biggest name here, is ubiquitous at the moment; besides making dances for Rambert and Kylie Minogue, he's just won the first Place Prize for dance. The piece 2 in B Minor is a small-scale work, commissioned this summer for the Royal Opera House's Clore studio. Celia Grannum and Patricia Okenwa step into position, legs stretched out, then move on, in unison or apart. They dance boldly, but Bonachela's patterns look too simple.

Saju Hari, dancing his own solo Itself...!, dips and plunges into and out of a spotlight. The steps, influenced by Keralan martial arts, are all flowing lines, attractive but generalised. Hari's dancing makes them distinctive, full of contrast. His movements are sinuous, but he can snap into a taut position.

Maria Ghoumrassi's Salt Woman is a lamentation dance. Ghoumrassi, in print frock and bare feet, plays a woman who has had a miscarriage. She rocks an imaginary child, sways, shudders. Ghoumrassi's solo can't carry all the ideas she has in mind. The backdrop is a huge photograph of salt flats to suggest dried tears. Her programme notes comment on the woman's background, society and social status, but these don't come across. Still, Ghoumrassi has some vivid images. She curls up on the floor, legs tucked inside her dress, and kicks flexed feet. For a moment she looks like a kicking baby.

Split Minds is a salsa dance by Anita Letang. Or rather, it becomes a salsa dance. Two women reach and yearn, falling to the ground and stretching up. Both wear high-heeled ballroom shoes, but these aren't social dances - they're on their knees more than their feet, slippers buckling as they crawl across the floor. Reaching for enlightenment? Or just unhappy? It seems a waste of those shoes. Unexpectedly, the piece ends with a ballroom dance trio. The salsa performer Phillip Langlais twirls both women, shifting and shuffling.

Robert Hylton's Methods opens with a robot duet, two hip-hop dancers moving like robots. The woman holds her hands like scoops, opening and closing her arms as she bends. The man folds himself to the floor, then stands up again. They're both doll-like: their steps are patterned, but they don't respond to each other. The dancing is deadpan and punchy.

Hylton's solo is more winsome, almost a woeful clown number. He slithers through his steps, dressed in red socks and woolly cap. There's a second eccentric solo, a man crouching with his knees tucked into his shirt, but it's the doll dance that sticks in the mind.

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