News: Happy Birthday to The Place

Monday 17 May 2010

The Place was even more full of dance activity than usual this weekend, as it celebrated its 40th birthday with a packed two days of performances taking place in every corner of the building.

Artists associated with the centre – including Place Prize finalists, former students of the London Contemporary Dance School, artists that have participated in Resolution! and Choreodrome, and young dancers from the current recreational and pre-vocational programmes – all swarmed through the corridors and studios of Flaxman Terrace in tribute to The Place’s multiple contributions to British dance over the past four decades.

The weekend’s programme – Something Happening mirrors a similar event called Explorations, also featuring a variety of performances around the building, that marked The Place’s launch in 1969._ \“I feel this weekend is about capturing the energy, the spirit with which The Place was started,” says Chief Executive Kenneth Tharp. “I think it’s probably one of the most ambitious things we’ve done, to have seventy performances in one weekend; but it think it actually says a lot about what The Place is, this incredible mix of elements under one roof.”_

The programme of events, run over five sessions during the weekend, features emerging and established artists connected to The Place. Amy Bell and Valentina Golfieri trained at London Contemporary Dance School and performed together in the centre’s postgraduate touring company EDge. Their sweet, quirky duet That Was The Time I Stopped opened this year’s Resolution!*and made a welcome return to the building this weekend. The piece showed in a double bill with the tender *_Lost and Found_ by fellow LCDS alumna Katie Green, who made her professional debut at Resolution! in 2007.

Other artists have developed a relationship with The Place through its extensive Artist Development programme. Place Prize 2006 winner Nina Rajarani showed an extract of her romantic duet Kadala – Is It Love? accompanied by live musicians in Studio 8. In another session, Place Prize finalist and former Choreographer in Residence Luca Silvestrini showed L.O.L. (lots of love), three short, whimsical duets developed during last year’s Choreodrome, The Place’s semi-annual choreographic research programme.

The Place is justly proud of its Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) prevocational programme, and the centre’s talented youngsters performed twice during the weekend – in Nicky Ellis’s explosive Supermassive Black Hole, and in Anh Ngoc Nguyen’s Anima, a collaboration with Guildhall School of Music. The centre has been running for five years, and in a happy symptom of the scheme’s success, CAT alumni now working professionally includea current member of Scottish Dance Theatre dancing in Drift on Saturday afternoon.

Young dancers from The Place’s Saturday classes and youth dance company Shift also performed over the weekend_._ “We’ve got young people right up to the professionals who are associated with The Place and the international artists,” says Kenneth Tharp, “and it says something about the unique mix of The Place!\”

Five of the seventy pieces showing over the weekend were selected through the Aerowaves initiative, the network of European dance presenters started by The Place fourteen years ago and still going strong. Doris Stelzer’s gender jungle – wo/man was selected in Vilnius this year from over 400 entries, and won the audience in Studio 1 over with its witty gender exploration, leopard-print costumes and disco beats. John Ashford, Theatre Director at The Place from 1987 to 2009, was instrumental in the development of the Aerowaves network and was delighted at the response. “I’m very happy that this piece by Doris Seltzer from Austria was greeted so warmly by a British public who know nothing of her work, because that’s what Aerowaves is about,” he says.

Something Happening was a celebration not only of The Place’s work with the artists performing over the weekend, but also of the people behind the scenes at one of Britain’s busiest dance venues and training centres. “One of the things that has impressed me most has been the incredible efficiency with which the crew have transformed all the spaces,” says Kenneth Tharp. Despite the ambitious nature of the project, with performances happening in spaces not usually occupied by the public, and events often taking place in different areas at the same time, the weekend ran extremely smoothly thanks to the dedicated staff.

It is hard to overstate the impact The Place has had on the British dance landscape. Many of the artists featured over the weekend owe a substantial part of their careers to The Place, whether through training, research opportunities, early exposure at one of the venue’s performance platforms, or choreographic commission. In ways large and small, local, national and international, The Place has made a difference to the way dance happens in Britain. Something Happening pays tribute to the depth and variety of that contribution.

Report by Lise Smith

More: ***S**omething Happening* was part of The Place At 40, running from 15-22 May.
From Thursday to Saturday This is The Place tells the story of The Place: a collection of memories, anecdotes, dancers and performances that have together shaped The Place – including a new work to mark the anniversary by Aletta Collins. More details/online booking.

Today (Monday 17th May) sees possibly the largest ever gathering of contemporary choreographers at The Place who are coming together for a group photograph of artists who have made a significant impact on the UK dance scene in the last 40 years. See the photo here

BBC London reports on The Place’s 40th

Watch a video including archive clips used in This is The Place

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