Review: The Place Prize: Semi-final 1

Performance: 15 September 2012
Reviewed by Lise Smith - Tuesday 18 September 2012

Joe Moran - 'Obverse'. The Place Prize for dance. Photo: Benedict Johnson

Semi Final 1: Joe Moran, Moreno Solinas, Tony Adigun, Riccardo Buscarini

Over 200 entries have been whittled down to 16 new commissions for the fifth edition of the semi-annual Place Prize. Variously described as the dance world’s answer to the Turner Prize and a sort of X-Factor for choreography, the Prize uses both a judging panel and audience voting to choose four finalists, who will go on to compete for a total prize fund of £35,000. This year’s crop includes some familiar faces – five of the sixteen have featured in previous semi-finals, with two of last year’s finalists (Riccardo Buscarini and Eva Recacha) returning for another crack at the top prize.

Joe Moran’s Obverse is a plotless trio for one male and two female dancers, set to a suite of baroque and classical selections. Scarlatti’s Sonata in D minor will be familiar to fans of Siobhan Davies from her 1995 piece The Art of Touch (recently revived by Rambert). There’s familiarity in the movement material, too, with the dancers’ spiralling torsos, angular dislocations and soft running circles strongly recalling Davies’ articulate yet playful style. It will be interesting to see what the choreographer herself, a member of this year’s judging panel, makes of Moran’s work.

It’s difficult to write about Moreno Solinas’s Life is a Carnival without giving away the sweet surprise that is the centre of the work’s presentation. Solinas, a London Contemporary Dance School graduate and member of the BLOOM! collective, initially trained in salsa and Latin American dance; his self-performed solo deals entertainingly with the weighty themes of essence, identity and the death of selfhood, without becoming either pretentious or cheesey. The tricky balance of depth and sparkle is well-executed by the charming Solinas, who brings a lovely singing voice and sizzling rhythms to the piece.

Tony Adigun, best known for his work with hip-hop theatre company Avant Garde Dance, makes his Place Prize debut with The Lake. Opening with a series of striking images – a family portrait, a mysterious bath, a body descending slowly from the back wall – the piece is visually strong and beautifully crafted. Dancers break out of formal arrangements into agitated patterns; there’s a clear mood of melancholy and angst, although it’s never made completely clear just what everyone is so upset about. Haunting and elegiac, with a fine performance from young dancer Maisie Bell, The Lake won Saturday’s audience vote.

Riccardo Buscarini was a finalist in 2010/11 alongside Antonio de la Fe with their noirish joint work Cameo. New piece Athletes finds Buscarini flying solo, and looking to the future rather than the past in an stylised sci-fi trio for three faceless female dancers wrapped in spined latex costumes. The piece is short and sweet, opening with a silent sequence in which the three joust, twine together and compete to cross the stage from top to bottom corner in a sequence of rapid and skilful interlocking moves. The pace then slows to that of zero-gravity suspension, as two of the dancers execute the longest, slowest kiss ever seen on The Place stage to the swelling strings of Bernard Herrmann’s Scene d’Amour from Vertigo; Buscarini’s aesthetic this year is more Kubrick than Hitchcock, but the master of suspense still makes his impression felt here. Athletes is a slight but thoughtful vignette, and could well pave the way to more substantial work from Buscarini.

With three semi-finals and twelve more commissions to come, the field is still wide open for this year’s finals; I won’t lay any money just yet but with an audience score of 3.6 (combined average, out of 5) Adigun’s could be hard to beat for the audience selection.

Place Prize Finalists announced
Semi Final 4 review
Semi Final 3 review
Semi Final 2 review

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Lise Smith is a dance manager and teacher, as well as a regular contributor to & Arts Professional.

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