Touch Wood, The Place, London

By Zoë Anderson
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The Independent Culture

The wood is underfoot. For this season of works in progress, by different choreographers at each performance, The Place has a sprung wooden floor, making a space halfway between rehearsal studio and stage. Most of the work is under construction: sections of larger pieces, dances that will be revised.

The exception in tonight's line-up comes from Hofesh Shechter, the biggest name here. Hofesh Makes a Dance is precisely that. Rather than showing something he's been working on, he spends 40 minutes working with dancers, ending with a performance of the short, finished sequence.

Shechter doesn't aim any of this at the audience: he comes straight in and starts teaching steps, his five dancers following, marking, practising behind him. The material is distinctively Shechter, with loping moves, limbs swung loosely, some monkeyish scrambles. Watching dancers at work is fun, but there isn't time for much insight into Shechter's style.

Frauke Requardt's untitled piece, part of her research for a larger work, is anything but stripped-down, coming in stripes of dance and whimsy. Daniel Oliver burbles on about his career as a jazz pianist; Requardt and her dancers, in odd headdresses, interrupt him with dances. The movement is more interesting than the frills Requardt puts around it. Oliver's stand-up material is thin, and the moves are often funnier than the silly costumes.

Jonathan Lunn's Fragments (Reading Room) is a series of short dances prompted by a soundtrack spoken by the actress Juliet Stevenson. Lunn's dances echo the text: "catch me when I fall" ends with one dancer supporting another. The moves are clean, but Stevenson's voice is more striking than these steps.

Marc Brew's One2one is the weakest. It starts with a dancer in a wheelchair, some of his movements reflected on film. Three more dancers take over, amplifying their colleague's gestures, but there's little development or force.

How useful is Touch Wood? You can't see how much these choreographers are getting from the process. With unfinished material, what really comes across is the quality of the dancing. Requardt and Shechter come off best because they know how to get their dancers moving.



Season continues to 6 October (020-7121 1100)

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