While this showcase of collaborations between London Contemporary Dance School and Guildhall School of Music & Drama students lasted a good half-hour longer than promised, it didn’t wear out its welcome. This was largely down to the talent on display: along with a decent whack of technical precision, the dancers and musicians peppered their performances with dashes of creative flair and energy galore.
You won’t find any musicians shuffled to the side of the stage or hidden away in the pit here: all six pieces feature them prominently on stage alongside the dancers. A few even weave them in choreographically: in Muliebris, for example, the trumpeter and violist saunter across the stage mid-instrumentals and join the three dancers in a travelling tableau; meanwhile Feet of Bread sees the lone viol player and single dancer march in tandem throughout. The music across the programme – all instrumental – is of a high standard, but the composition for Dessus De Souffle stands out in particular for its depth. A rock-steady percussion stabilises the mercurial woodwinds, and a singing bowl adds a tribal feel that syncs nicely with the curving choreography.
Speaking of choreography, it too proves sound, though a few pieces tend towards flashy theatrics like convulsions and bouts of maniacal laughing – the kind of tactics that hint at a desire to deviate from the norm simply for the sake of being different. (For a literary equivalent, see writing a short story in the second person.) The enthusiasm of the dancers is commendable nevertheless, and it would be remiss of me to suggest there are more dubious moments than compelling ones when it’s very much the opposite. Jordan Ajadi’s Aki brilliantly shifts from baleful to merry with the help of a jazzy middle phrase bursting with slinky sashays, while Connor Williams’ Without keeps its pace even, the four dancers folding in and out of precarious shapes with ease.
The programme economises on The Place’s snug production space: there’s dancing in the aisles, behind the stage, on the back wall and, in the case of Loop, even in the bar. Loop opens and closes the show, with Chan Sze-Wei cheerfully galloping through the crowd while James Albany Hoyle pounds out discordant sounds on a keyboard. The piece is playful, particularly when Sze-Wei grabs a drink and clinks glasses with another patron, and like the programme as a whole it’s admirably face-forward in its efforts.