Review: ReFresh at The Place

Performance: 18 Feb 2012
Reviewed by Jessica Wilson - Tuesday 21 February 2012

metamotion, Dance United's London Performance Company. Image: Joe Plommer

As one of the most sought after performance opportunities for youth dance, ReFresh 2012 at The Place was an evening not to be missed. Produced in partnership with Sadler’s Wells, ReFresh set six youth dance companies the challenge to create a brand new piece of work to music selected by leading choreographers. The talent on show throughout ReFresh is a clear indicator of the high standard of youth dance today, providing young dancers with a great opportunity to further develop their creativity.

Before the main event Shuffle, The Place’s new junior dance company performed their new work, Set in Stone. The passion of the young performers shone with dynamism and dedication and their performance was a strong beginning to an evening of work showing great promise for dance in future years.

ReFresh began with A&R Dance Company’s I’Mpossible, performed to Edmund Welles’ instrumental rock Watch Me Die, selected by Tom Roden. Elements of break dance were fused with contemporary, with the recording adding an intense kinaesthetic quality to the movement. Angular and forceful lines dominated the piece, emphasising the musical strength of the accompaniment, incredibly fast paced and filled with energy.

Juxtaposing A&R Dance Company was Cando2, Candoco’s youth company for young disabled and non-disabled performers. Kate Prince (ZooNation) selected Long Way Home by Wretch 32 feat Drake and Ed Sheeran’s A-Team, inspiring the dancers to create a work based on the strong themes within the music. The harshness of life was depicted, ignoring that which surrounds us daily and was symbolised through the separate movement intentions of each dancer. The melancholy music was reflected through the minimalistic movement of the dancers in turning a blind eye to the pain of others. This then gave a sense of hope that society does not have to be like this, echoing the inclusive ethos of Candoco itself.

Next up was Far From The Norm’s Inner, created to John Zorn’s The Rain Horse chosen by Frauke Requardt. It was clear that ReFresh encouraged these hip hop dancers to push their own boundaries further, and as a result created an intriguing piece. The Rain Horse lies on counts of 5s and 6s, and whilst this may be a challenge to young dancers, the intricate rhythms complemented the simplicity of the movement. The piece was striking, the entire group silhouetted against a bright blue background for the majority of the piece. A single duet added to this feeling of ‘less is more’, truly engaging the audience.

Following Inner was metamotion, Dance United’s London Performance Company. The group set their work to music selected by Richard Alston: Earl Hines’ Boogie Woogie and The Five Trumpets’ Preach The Word, creating Today is the day, is the day, is the day… The large company instilled a playful nature throughout the piece, playing on characters, relationships and the flurry of joy in enjoying single moments in time. This infectious fun was heightened by such a young interpretation of music from another era, which was completely refreshing as dance theatre. The performance quality of the dancers was increased by the vigour of the male ensemble and the flirtatious nature of the females, coming together to create great chemistry and a joyful summer atmosphere.

Strut Youth Dance Company’s Dissolve came next, set to Richard English’s Choice and Eden, chosen by Russell Maliphant. The dancers embodied an intense atmosphere, appearing to search for something elusive, through a confusion of tracing and retracing their individual steps. A great driving energy flowed through the piece as they ran tirelessly, increased by the clearly identifiable connections between the dancers. Slight glances and subtle movements were hinted at throughout the work, hidden at times behind the expansive yet intricate moments of the group.

ReFresh ended on a high note with For Queen and Country? created by the BRIT School’s Khronos. The work was an explosion of elevations and huge energy by a completely male cast, to Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain selected by Rambert’s Artistic Director Mark Baldwin. This specifically emphasised the poignant nature of the work, depicting a group of soldiers in the Middle East in their physical and emotional struggles. Performed by an ensemble of 20, Baldwin introduced his music choice on film, explaining it to being like “chucked in a tumble drier on fast”, highlighting the powerful images created through the energy reverberating throughout the space. When reflective lyrical moments emerged through the music, they remained volcanic in their presence, presenting the intense contrasts within the lives the dancers portrayed.

The diverse range of works presented in ReFresh 2012 reflected the sheer talent of youth dance companies today and gave all who took part a fantastic opportunity to perform at one of the most important venues for dance in the country.

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