Five weeks into 2006 most people's January resolutions have already been quietly dropped or modified. For the 105 dance companies taking part in the annual Resolution! season at The Place, however, ambitious resolve is firmer than ever. Now in its 17th year, it provides a launch pad for choreographic talent of all kinds, taking inspiration from martial arts to hip hop, salsa, ethnic dance and every shade of modern. Entry is open to anyone (four times as many are turned away) and those selected are grouped in threes to create 35 different programmes, presented nightly over six weeks.
For audiences, it's a blind date. Each year throws up an uneven mix of the inventive, intriguing and frankly baffling, and it's quite possible to pick a bum night. Just as likely, though, is that somewhere among the melee lurk the stars of tomorrow. Wayne McGregor, Javier de Frutos and Mark Baldwin all got their first footing here. The night I chose - a quiet Tuesday, I'd thought, yet the place was packed - turned out to be a good one, scoring three out of three with a hip hop duet, a solo rooted in south-Indian classical dance, and a humorous trio involving tape measures and text - each one sparky and engaging, but unalike in every other way.
Joe Garcia's 15-minute hip-hop number for himself and Tamsyn Boulding is striking not just for its bizarre virtuosity but for its composition. This isn't only about showing off popping and locking skills. Every second is meticulously crafted as in computer animation, cutting by means of blackouts, and defining the various sequences with coloured light: one moment the two bodies are downstage, purple on black; a blink of an eye and they are upstage and picked out in scarlet. At one point I was sure there must be four dancers at work, if only on grounds of stamina. But there are no sleights of hand. The pair mirror each others' spasms with precision, and the slo-mo floor-skimming moves are magical. Garcia scores extra points by composing his own music, all electronic whooshes and slurps.
When tall, pale Magdalen Gorringe wafts on stage at the start of her piece, Litany, it's as if Virginia Woolf had returned to earth and landed in southern India. A recording of a poem by Yeats - "things fall apart, the centre cannot hold..." - reinforces the dislocation. We're not used to seeing a white woman appropriate Asian forms. But Gorringe is no cultural dilettante. She delivers the warrior lunges of Bharatanatyam with the sureness of an arrow from a bow, slapping fierce diagonals across the floor with her bare soles (you wonder how much this hurts) or holding deep-splayed plies with marmoreal stillness. At other times, with her neat head and long, angled limbs, tapering to hyper-extended fingers, she resembles an elegant praying mantis. Again, intelligent composition has forged a work that holds the viewer rapt, while Gorringe's dramatic intensity provokes a shiver.
Himherandit.productions might better have called itself "her, her and her" for the final piece of the evening - the only one not performed by its creator. Reduced to Three, we're told, "is a deconstruction of a full-length work created for 10 performers", but on the basis that less is more, I'm glad I got the short version. Clearly Andreas Constantinou is a fan of Nijinska's Les Noces: its pared-down modernism is evident here in the crisp unisons of everyday gestures used to sculptural effect. But Constantinou adds to this a layer of fun. A fast duet between two women during which one is determined to take the other's inside leg measurement earned its guffaws.
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