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The Place Prize for Dance


by Jessica Wilson

September 22, 2012 -- The Place, London, UK

The Place Prize for dance, sponsored by Bloomberg, is the biggest private source of commissions for new short works in British dance and has just returned for its fifth edition. For 2012, 208 entries were received; the highest number of entrants of any year to date. From these, 16 new dance works were commissioned for the four semi-finals.

It’s a prize worth winning, with a total of £35,000 up for grabs at the Finals next April. On top of that, the 16 semi-finalists were awarded a total of £100,000, and benefitted from free production time and support from The Place Prize team as they created and then presented their works to what were hungry semi-finals audiences.

The 16 works encompassed a huge variety of contemporary styles. Some of the commissioned artists for 2012 are already quite well-known, including Jonathon Goddard, former Rambert dancer, who was the first contemporary dancer to win the Critics’ Dance Award for Best Male Dancer in 2008, and who was working alongside his fellow Rambert dancer Gemma Nixon; 2011 Place Prize finalists Riccardo Buscarini and Eva Recacha; and former semi-finalists Ben Ash (2006), Bren Wright (2006 and 2008), and Darren Ellis (2010).

The fourth of the semi-finals completed the two weeks of performances, and revealed which four entrants would to progress into the finals. Eva Recacha’s “The Wishing Well” displayed a solitary dancer donning a shocking yellow dress and projecting an even more shocking sound level of spoken word, which featured heavily in the finalists’ pieces. With frantic movement in places juxtaposed with a calming expression on the dancer’s face, the piece was filled with passion, repetition and ritual to be completed in order to succeed and progress. There were humorous references to the audience breaking the fourth wall momentarily, yet maintaining an essence of desperation through movement.

The second piece, Robbie Synge’s “Settlement” featured 3 pieces of plywood alongside a male duet, creating and destroying architecture as a metaphor for life, falling as easily as it stands. Interestingly choreographed full of risk and chance, the piece resembled Doris Humphrey’s fundamental technique of fall and recovery, contained a larger message than just a duet based around balancing and falling ‘architecture’.

“Third” was Goddard Nixon’s powerfully aesthetic piece surrounded release-based movement, with an intense connection between the dancers. With the setting cool and cold, the movement gave a yearning quality to the work as a creative and inspiring partnership between the dancers. The piece was the most adventurous of the four presented during the evening in terms of pure dance, which was both refreshing and reassuring simultaneously.

The fourth piece of the night, Seke Chimutengwende’s “The Time Travel Piece”, was an interesting interpretation of three dreams of the future, and what dance might look like in 30, 75 and 490 years time. Tongue-in-cheek and full of humour, the piece stabbed at the current state of the arts sector with Chimutengwende’s work pulling the night together in a both reflective and thought-provoking manner.

Following the fourth and final semi-final, the four dance pieces selected to go through to the Finals were announced as h2dance’s “Duet”, which was the most popular piece as voted for by the live audience with a score of 4.1, Riccardo Buscarini’s “Athletes”, Rick Nodine’s “Dead Gig”, and Eva Recacha’s “The Wishing Well”. The Finals will take place in April 2003, when the four works will compete against each other for their chance to win the £25,000 cash prize, and a total of £10,000 audience prize, which will be awarded in nightly prizes of £1,000 by the live audience.

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