Review: The Place Prize 2010 in Semi-finals at The Place

Performance: 18 - 25 September 2010
Reviewed by Katie Fish - Tuesday 21 September 2010

Place Prize 2010 Semi Final. Top: Freddie Opoku-Addaie & Frauke Requardt's 'Fidelity'. Below: Saju Hari's 'The Program'. Photos: Benedict Johnson.

Semi Final 1: 18 September

Although there was a buzz of anticipation from the audience for the first Semi-final of the 2010 edition of The Place Prize, the event opened on rather a sombre note with Indian dance artist Saju Hari. The Program was a personal response to the aftermath of the London bombings when a surreal sense of heightened normality was felt universally. At first there are recognisable characters as a spokesman, flanked by two security guards, talks us through the correct etiquette, reassuring us that should a global disaster occur, assistance would arrive within forty minutes. As the work progresses, however, and repeated movement becomes almost autonomic, it is harder to identify the observer and the observed. Habitual gestures suggest anxiety as even the formerly composed spokesman folds and unfolds his arms, rubs his palms down his thighs and bites his nails. Vijay Venkat then almost imperceptively introduces a calmer, quieter mood with his flute solo, and the dancers respond with softer, more expansive and individual reflections. The closing image is of four dancers in a line descending from human to ape; a reversal of evolution, perhaps suggesting the human capacity for inhuman suffering.

As the title suggests, the trend for conflict was continued with WW3*by *Dane Hurst, a South African movement artist and choreographer who has worked with companies including Rambert and Phoenix Dance Theatre. Unfortunately, the explosive jumps and quick-fire footwork cannot take away from the other less well-crafted aspects of the work. The detached upstage door looks like it is straight from Disney’s Alice-in-Wonderland, and garish single notes are made to suggest encroaching danger. The ropes that supposedly bind Hurst to a chained wheeled chair are unfastened without much struggle and the props that adorn a limbless female mannequin – a lampshade and deer antler – seem superfluous and without meaning. It goes without saying that Hurst is a beautiful and watchable dancer but there was not much in this piece to show this to advantage.

Happily, the third billing, Vera Tussing’s The Icarus Project, offered some gentle relief as it encouraged the audience to engage more with their ears than their eyes. Several microphones hang loosely from the rafters to pick up and reverberate the dancers’ movements, transforming them into a wandering soundscape. Running, swaying, flapping, rubbing, stroking and stamping are some of the variations explored at different speeds and with different body-parts to evoke familiar sounds – a helicopter propeller, heart monitor, machinery or birdsong. Whilst it is not choreographically or visually striking, the work develops subtly like a gradual crescendo, increasing in momentum and impact.

In sharp contrast, Fidelity Project, a duet choreographed and performed by Freddie Opoku-Addaie and Frauke Requardt (accompanied onstage by fairground popcorn maker), announced itself with energetic vigour from the outset. The pair seem like familiar strangers, and an unwary intimacy keeps them close at hand despite sudden underhand trips or shunts that catch each other off-guard. Hands and feet strike the space immediately surrounding the pair so that they are constantly ducking, diving, dodging and catching. The music contains a playful, clockwork feel and the performers themselves seem at times like wind-up clowns, slowing to a halt only to snap back alive with renewed impetus. They possess an unassuming naiveté that is incredibly engaging and convincing, allowing us to enter their whimsical world, if only until the popcorn stops popping.

Audience votes (average score on a rate of 1 – 5):
Saju Hari 3.20

Dane Hurst 2.70

Vera Tussing 2.61

Freddie Opoku-Addaie & Frauke Requardt 3.93

The Place Prize 2010 Semi finals continue 21, 23 & 25 September: www.theplaceprize.com

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