The Place Prize for Dance, The Place, London
Friday 15 April 2011
The Place Prize for Dance, which was founded in 2004, is unpredictable without being exciting. Unusually, it's a commissioning prize: 16 semi-finalists are chosen to create new works. Sponsored by Bloomberg, the prize offers £25,000 to the main winner, plus an audience prize of £1,000, awarded at each of the 10 finals performances. As a system, it does support new creations, but what goes into the final is the best of a small pool. The finalists tend to be choreographers who have begun to make names for themselves: it's neither the shock of the new nor the stars of the field.
Eva Recacha's Begin to Begin, a Piece about Dead Ends stages a series of "deaths" to the children's rhyme "Michael Finnegan". A man falls, caught by two women in a Pietà pose. Then he gets up, and one of the women falls. Though it's smoothly danced, it's a small, earnest work.
Ben Duke and Raquel Meseguer's It Needs Horses is the strongest and funniest work of the night. Two bedraggled circus performers try to win over a crowd. She stands frozen on the trapeze, obviously scared stiff, while he hopes "ta da" gestures will cover the fact that she's not doing anything. They dance, juggle badly, embarrass each other with attempts to be sexy. At last she gets out of the game, leaving him alone in the ring. The dancers Chris Evans and Anna Finkel have sharp comic timing, playing well to the audience – even though their subject is just how unrewarding crowds can be. It's no surprise that this won the first audience prize of the competition.
Cameo, by Riccardo Buscarini and Antonio de la Fe Guedes, is a jumbled film noir trio. The action is told out of order. It opens with a woman and a body, then shows snatches of the relationships leading up to the death. The disorder is intentional but unrevealing. The piece coasts on the images of the genre, without establishing its own identity.
Freddie Opoku-Addaie and Frauke Requardt, both established choreographers, dance together in Fidelity Project. They shove or respond to each other, sometimes ducking away from a slap that never comes. In the background, a popcorn machine heats up. They're strong performers, but the ideas are stretched very thin.
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