Review: The Place Prize - Semi-final 3

Performance: 20 September 2012
Reviewed by Lise Smith - Saturday 22 September 2012

The Place Prize for dance - bgroup - ' A Short Lived Alteration of an Existing Situation'. Photo: Benedict Johnson

Nina Kov – Copter ; Neil Paris The Devil’s Mischief ; bgroup – A Short Lived Alteration of an Existing Situation ; Darren Ellis Revolver

Another packed house greeted the halfway stage of the 2012 Place Prize semifinals on Thursday night, eager to spot the next big thing in dance among the third group of prize commissions. Tuesday’s semifinal saw h2dance’s Hanna Gillgren and Heidi Rustgaard throw down a hefty challenge for the audience choice with their winning score of 4.1 – would they be outvoted by any of tonight’s artists?

Never before on stage has the love between woman and helicopter been depicted so movingly. Nina Kov’s duet for herself and a tiny remote-controlled chopper, Copter, is an engaging and sweet play between the dancer and a mechanical object animated to appear like a living creature. Kov herself begins crouched on the stage, clad in a green leotard and hood like some modern-day forest nymph, sliding her remarkable body around the stage as if through bushes and bracken. When the copter (piloted by Jack Bishop) appears, it seems shy and flittish, hovering near Kov only to dart away again. The copter choreography is beautifully vital: the tiny beast swoops and spins, circles away backwards and loops the loop, finally landing in Kov’s outstretched palm. Allow yourself to go with the premise, and there’s something quite magical about this unusual piece.

It took a six-person team of technicians from The Place ten minutes to set the stage with a landscape of pointy paper hats for Neil Paris’s duet The Devil’s Mischief on Thursday night. It wasn’t worth it.

Like all good love affairs, bgroup’s A Short Lived Alteration of an Existing Situation (choreographed by Ben Wright) begins with a loud clang of noise and a sheet of red light pouring from the rafters. Dancer Sam Denton shifts his around a fashionably stygian pool of light, worrying at his wiry limbs and hopping on and off the floor to a throbbing electronic pulse. The splendidly-named Lise Manavit joins him in the spotlight for an itchy, elbow-thrusting duet that slowly melts into a lush piece of contact work accompanied by a billowing Rachmaninov prelude, performed live by pianist John Byrn. It’s a portentous title for an honest and authentic work about relationships, a depiction of the changes that take place between two people in the blink of an eye. Manavit and Denton come together and roll each other across the floor; she steals his nose; he pushes her away. It’s a beautifully-realised depiction of the squalls and squabbles that animate human contact, performed with great sensitivity by both dancers and pianist.

Perhaps it’s the two guys with telecasters and Marshal amps on stage; perhaps it’s the girls’ white polo-necked minidresses; perhaps it’s the repeated arm-swinging gestures and the driving, guitar-drone score; but there’s something very Judson Theatre about Darren Ellis’s Revolver. Based on a simple, narrativeless movement principle (the two dancers rotate clockwise around each other for twenty minutes ) Ellis’s piece has a certain unfussiness of form; choppy swipes and sudden spirals break into mesmeric repeating step patterns. The swings and circles are strongly reminsicent of early Rosas, and indeed some sections resemble Fase cut up, paused and rewound on an endless jerky loop. The quality of the performance is not in question – dancers Hannah Kidd and Joanna Wenger hold their taut lines and meticulous unison for twenty demanding minutes – but I can’t help feeling we’ve seen this experiment carried out before, and better.

bgroup’s impressive score of 4.0 wasn’t quite enough to knock h2dance from the leading position for the audience vote, but with four works still to come and a judging panel to impress there’s still everything to play for.

Place Prize Finalists announced
Semi Final 4 review
Semi Final 2 review
Semi Final 1 review

The Place Prize, 17 – 20 April 2013

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

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