The Place presents… Fresh
London, The Place
1 December 2012
Featuring: James Cousins Company, Camilla Gutierrez & Fionn Cox-Davies, Shift, Khronos, Cando2, A&R Dance Company, Simone Riccio, Boy Blue Entertainment
“Fresh is a night of outstanding dance with and for young people that brings together some of the UK’s most dynamic youth and professional dance companies. Fresh presents an unbeatable programme of bite-sized works…“
So ran the start of the blurbs. I recognised a few names on the bill and thought “Well if anything is dire at least it won’t drone on if it’s bite-sized!” – such are the things that go through minds when planning what to see. In the event this was a good night of high-energy dance, and one that saw the Place packed with kids, plus some parents and a few of the dance-curious, all having a grand time seeing generally younger performers, of all types and abilities, strut their stuff. And the good time came not just from the dance but also from Kwesi Johnson, who acted as compère, getting us to chant support, wave arms etc and also fed us useful facts about the acts. Only some of the dancer interviews fell flat.
There were 7 pieces in the main performance space (Robin Howard Dance Theatre), plus a short piece before, by Cando2, in the Founders’ Studio for those who wanted to turn up early. If you added up the performance mins they totalled 43, but it felt much more of a night than that would indicate and those who wanted to make more of it could stay in the Place Bar which had DJ Vitty Dubs doing her stuff in the corner.
I have to say my main draw was to see James Cousins’ choreography – he recently won the Matthew Bourne New Adventures Choreographer Award and as part of that put on some great work at Sadler’s Wells. I first came across him last February as part of a night, called Jealousy, at Notting Hill’s tiny Print Room theatre where he had whipped up a fine duet that was now shown at the Place, I think in somewhat extended form and called There We Have Been (see above). The performance was particularly remarkable because Cousins’ dancers dropped out and he had to perform it himself with Azzurra Ardovini at only a couple of days notice. It’s a spellbindingly beautiful work in which the girl never ever touches the floor throughout its 6 or 7 minutes. The secret is that it’s made to look effortless as she winds herself around him and balances precariously, sometimes upside down and at times within millimetres of the floor, but never seeking refuge there. We will all be hearing a lot more of Cousins over the coming years.
James Cousins is ex-LCDS (London Contemporary Dance School) and another couple I particularly liked were two current LCDS students, Camilla Gutierrez and Fionn Cox-Davies, doing a more overt and fast-paced physical routine with lots of contact, pushing and pulling etc. Well rehearsed Accomplices was cleverly constructed but playful in the telling. On a bigger scale Kerry Nicholls’ The Falling Room for the Place’s own youth company, Shift, was also moodily physical and covered a lot of emotions with its mixed cast of 21, as you can see here…
Yet more physicality from Khronos (aka The Brit School Boys dance company – ww.brit.croydon.sch.uk) with For Queen & Country?, about soldiering in the Middle East. No subtle contemporary cleverness here and it gave the 22 boys lots of opportunity to just go flat-out while working together in various formations. It would be interesting to see how the full length piece stacks up against what I think of as the definitive and thoughtful army piece, 5 Soldiers by the excellent Rosie Kay.
The evening opened with A&R Dance Company dancing I’mPossible to some minimalist multitracked bass clarinet – rather classical in a way but the dancing was fast paced and Wayne McGregorish. “Have something” I scrawled as a note but need more then 7 mins to tease it out. The most gob-smacking of what we saw was My Reclaim by contemporary circus performer Simone Riccio – using a German wheel, which is a bit like one of those Hamster wheels but for humans. Unexpected fun, though it must be a nightmare to control the wheel on the small Place stage. The evening closed out with Boy Blue Entertainment in Krump-Buck-Amp – much more hip-hop, urban and un-contemporary dance than the rest of the night. Tight and clever, it become the stronger when 2 girls joined in the action.
Although I’m not sure seeing full versions of any of the works would have filled me with the same glee as the bites we saw, as a coherent night and sampler of what bubbles around and is often less seen, this was a 4-star night. People talk about wanting to get new and younger audiences in for dance and this was really a great way of achieving it. I certainly look forward to Fresh 2013.