The Place Prize (semi-final 3) – The Place, London, 20 September 2012

There’s good and bad in all of us

Nina Kov’s in love with her strict machine. Photo by Benedict Johnson

The bi-annual The Place Prize pits the wits of 16 fresh choreographers (selected from over 200 applicants) in a competition decided not just by the approved judges but also by the audience. The format consists of four semi-finals (four pieces in each) and a grand final for the four winners to be held in April 2013, where prizes amounting to £35,000 are on offer. This was the third semi and was the proverbial mixed bag.

In Copter Nina Kov literally launched the evening with her trusty little toy helicopter. It buzzed annoyingly around her like a fly at first, transformed into a bird with the gentle stroke of Kov’s hand and finally wagged its copter blades like an eager little puppy. It back-flipped, somersaulted and comprehensively stole the show from Kov’s cautious slumbers across the floor.

Either Neil Paris’ The Devil’s Mischief was a work of mime so profound it flew over everyone’s head or else it was slow, over-indulgent and frankly dull. Two people in tall pointy hats, one with a letter ‘G’ scrawn onto it (God presumably) and one with a ‘D’ (hmm, could be the Devil, I guess), very slowly lanked around the stage knocking over other tall pointy hats that had been left all over the floor. Then they took each other’s hat off and the piece finished. It rolled in last in the audience vote.

The night’s deserved audience winner was bgroup’s A Short Lived Alteration of an Existing Situation. Thoughtful and engaging choreography threw a couple together in Guy Hoare’s imaginatively lit industrial unit. Opening to a low drone, then a long  period of silence and ultimately to some lovely lyrical piano, Lise Manavit supported and pulled her partner in what felt like a struggle for recognition. Sam Denton put in a terrific performance; his laconic driftings were controlled and convincing and the way he flipped/was flipped from flat on the floor to Manavit’s knees was brilliant.

Running it a close second was Darren Ellis’ wonderfully bizarre Revolver. Seemingly set in some trashy automaton nightclub two girls in short white dresses thrust themselves about to the rhythmic chugging of two live electric guitars. There was a surprisingly old-fashioned, but hypnotic, reliance on marking the beat that gave the whole thing an interesting sixties art-happening feel. Unfathomably, it kept making me smile and top marks to Hannah Kidd and Joanna Wenger for keeping the tempo in what must be a physically punishing piece.

Although bgroup won the night’s audience vote, h2dance’s Duet from the second semi-final had a marginally higher mark so currently remains in the lead with just one semi to go. bgroup still have a chance of making the final though if it lands in the approved judges top three. All will be revealed on Saturday.

For tickets, visit The Place’s online booking

Gerard Davis

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