The Place Prize: six things you need to know

London dance centre The Place is hosting Europe’s biggest choreography competition, with £35,000 up for grabs. Ker-ching!

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L: 'The Wishing Well' by Eva Recacha R: 'Dead Gig' by Rick Nodine. Photos by Benedict Johnson

In a nutshell

The dance world’s equivalent of the Booker or Turner, The Place Prize is different because it doesn’t just judge, it also commissions new work. A shortlist of 16 semi-finalists each created a contemporary dance piece, and those have been whittled down to four finalists who will battle it out (well, perform their pieces) over the next two weeks, chasing a £25,000 winner’s cheque and £10,000 in audience prizes.

The twist

The judges’ decision may be final, but the audience also get a say, voting for their favourite piece via electronic keypad after each of the ten shows, with £1,000 on the spot for the highest-scoring work.

Runners and riders

The contenders range from the comic to the cinematic. H2dance’s ‘Duet’ is like French and Saunders in sequins and pink Lycra; Rick Nodine wigs out to the Grateful Dead in his autobiographical ‘Dead Gig’; Riccardo Buscarini goes retro space age in the glacially paced ‘Athletes’; and Eva Recacha: well, we’re not 100 percent sure what’s happening in ‘The Wishing Well’, but we liked it.

The stakes

None of the contenders are household names, and to be frank, winning the competition won’t change that, but 25 grand goes a long way in the impoverished world of contemporary dance. The most successful victor so far was the first winner back in 2004, Rafael Bonachela, who now runs Sydney Dance Company. Since then, Indian classical choreographer Nina Rajarani, high-concept ex-ballet dancer Adam Linder and dance theatre duo Lost Dog have picked up the gong (and the cheque).

Put your money on...

H2dance will sweep the audience vote, just like they did in the semi-finals – their mix of deadpan laughs and pathos is a winner. But the judges, who come from the visual art, music and theatre worlds, tend to favour more conceptual concoctions. Recacha and Buscarini have been finalists before (Recacha woz robbed last time round) and Nodine’s piece is atmospheric and instantly likeable; it’s wide open.

Smug dinner party one-liner

‘Of course I don’t believe art should be a competition, but how about a tenner on Rick Nodine?’



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