Resolution!: The Place, London

A 'mesmerising journey of physical surrender'? Hmm...
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The Independent Culture

How do dance-makers ever get started? It's like the conundrum of high-board divers: at what point do they take that first step off the edge? To improve, you have to have done it, and to do it in the first place you need to have acquired enough technique not to fall on your face. In the case of choreography, there's also the small matter of finding a stage, a willing audience, and probably a group of performers prepared to give their all for nothing. How on earth does it all come together? Enter Resolution!, the annual season set up by The Place as a launch pad for choreographic talent. Anyone can apply: recent dance graduates, long-time performers, wannabes from other disciplines altogether. This year no fewer than 93 young dance companies are presenting themselves to the public, at a rate of roughly three a night over six weeks. And if that leaves you incredulous that Britain has that many contemporary dance outfits, consider the fact that a further 150 were rejected. For the selected, the benefits a

How do dance-makers ever get started? It's like the conundrum of high-board divers: at what point do they take that first step off the edge? To improve, you have to have done it, and to do it in the first place you need to have acquired enough technique not to fall on your face. In the case of choreography, there's also the small matter of finding a stage, a willing audience, and probably a group of performers prepared to give their all for nothing. How on earth does it all come together? Enter Resolution!, the annual season set up by The Place as a launch pad for choreographic talent. Anyone can apply: recent dance graduates, long-time performers, wannabes from other disciplines altogether. This year no fewer than 93 young dance companies are presenting themselves to the public, at a rate of roughly three a night over six weeks. And if that leaves you incredulous that Britain has that many contemporary dance outfits, consider the fact that a further 150 were rejected. For the selected, the benefits are obvious. For the paying audience, it's a lucky dip, since there's no way of guessing where - or whether - star-quality might be lurking. Past Resolution! seasons have exposed Wayne MacGregor, Russell Maliphant and Mark Baldwin. Picking two nights at random, I turned up an assortment of the iffy, the baffling and some intriguing curate's eggs.

Mischievous-looking Josephine Dyer was the highlight of Tuesday's bunch. Unusually - because contemporary dance isn't known for having its nose stuck in a book - she opted to illuminate extracts from Günter Grass's rise-of-fascism novel The Tin Drum. I was gripped by the half-hour that unfolded, not because it offered any idea of the plot - essentially the world view of Oskar, who communicates only by banging a drum - but for its sharply focused snapshots of a few typical moments. Their sheer terseness made me long to read the book.

The grinding existence of Oskar's grandmother is expressed in pure movement to bold effect. We see her stretching and contracting on the floor like a disturbed caterpillar, and on all-fours as if scaling a mountain. Dyer's style might appear abstract but she adds sly hints of character and place - a hand on an aged hip here, a backward tilt of a peasant dance there.

Elliptical dialogue and music are also used with flair. As two narrators relate a story about a drunken trumpeter who loses his gift when sober, Steve Sincock croons beguilingly into his instrument, a dark jazzman silhouette picked out at the back of the stage. Brilliantly, Dyer herself inhabits Oskar, the boy who refused to grow up. Grown women pretending to be boys can so easily be coy, but Dyer's wry talent for understatement convinces.

Given that this is a free-style event with no restriction other than time, is it surprising that some entrants find themselves at sea? The age-old audience cry - "but what's it about?" - might usefully be tattooed on every entrant's forehead, if only to sharpen their ideas. Naomi Lefebvre Sell's Remember to breathe, Sisyphus seemed to be about a gaggle of young women in tiny shorts getting excessively out of breath in the course of a very disorderly workout. But I couldn't swear that there wasn't some element of pushing a stone uphill. Likewise, Wednesday's Labourite Company made only the shallowest impression with their "mesmerising journey of physical surrender", which to me resembled the kind of thing some people do at parties after ingesting funny tablets.

Success, generally, came from fierce self-discipline. Marc Brew, a successful ballet dancer until a car accident left him paralysed from the chest down, had the limits imposed on him. His solo Upside Down and Back to Front is an un-self-pitying exploration of the range of movement left to him, small, perhaps, but highly varied. The force with which he swung his dead legs about, like clappers in a bell, or launched himself out of his chair to proceed lizard-like across the floor, kept the audience rigid in their seats. His rhythmic precision was remarkable.

jenny.gilbert@independent.co.uk

Resolution!: The Place, London WC1 (020 7387 0031), to 19 February

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