Studio theatres are usually painted black - absorbing light, helping to conceal scenery changes from an audience sitting very close. This year, the specialist dance theatre The Place celebrates Christmas by repainting its stage area, making a bright white box. Over the next fortnight, 37 choreographers will show short (often new) works in this shiny white setting. Inevitably, quality varies. The first night was a very mixed bag; upcoming names include choreographers Richard Alston, Siobhan Davies, Shobana Jeyasingh.
Painted white, the stage seems twice the size, and it looks terrific - best of all in the opening work by Kim Brandstrup, a dance to a Handel aria, lit by hundreds of candles. Those banks of naked flames probably explain the first-night fire alarm, but they cast a soft glow over this mournful solo for the Royal Ballet's Zenaida Yanowsky.
In recent years, Brandstrup has developed a new style, psychological dramas in short solos or duets. His piece for Yanowsky is one example. The new duet Theme and Inversion, also on this programme, is another. Natalia Thorn and Gildas Diquero lean against the wall, some distance apart. She reaches out to him; when her fingers touch him, she gives him a push. As a waltz theme cuts into the piano soundtrack, they sweep into couple dances - but Thorn leads Diquero, spinning or dipping him. The dynamic between this couple keeps changing, the dancers soft or wary.
Laila Diallo's Between the Shingle and the Dune, which she dances with Theo Clinkard, is another relationship duet. The dancers lie in a square patch of light - this could be a lazy Sunday - then move away from each other, snuggle close, drift apart. It's clearly danced, and Diallo establishes moods, but this piece would be tauter if it were edited down.
This first White Christmas show mixes the accomplished and the dreary. Several dances are much too long. Frederick Opoku-Addaie has a group of lively dancers, but he keeps stopping to harangue the audience or his cast. Hofesh Shechter's Untitled also addresses its audience. As the elegant Elizabetta d'Aloia goes through Shechter's stretches, the choreographer drones on the soundtrack. "This is the first part of the piece. It is about love." At last d'Aloia walks offstage, leaving Shechter plaintively asking her to return. It's a clunky idea, stretched over 11 minutes.
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