The Place Prize 2011

© Benedict Johnson
Posted: Tue Mar 29 2011

One dance artist's career could be about to take a giant leap this week as the finals of Europe's biggest choreography competition, The Place Prize, get under way. The field has been whittled down from 16 semi-finalists to four finalists, all in the running for the £25,000 prize. For added frisson, there's also a nightly bounty of £1,000 awarded to the audience's favourite work, voted for via electronic keypad directly after the show. So who's going to win? And who could be the dark horse of the competition? Here's Time Out's guide to the runners and riders.

Ben Duke and Raquel Meseguer: 'It Needs Horses'
The artists: Duke and Meseguer work together under the moniker Lost Dog to make inventive dance theatre.
The work: A pair of tragically bedraggled circus performers seems to be taking too seriously the mantra that the show must go on. A tatty showgirl makes increasingly desperate attempts to get attention, to degrading ends.
The verdict: 'It Needs Horses' convincingly won the audience vote in the semi finals.

Riccardo Buscarini and Antonio de la Fe Guedes: 'Cameo'
The artists: Italian Buscarini and Spaniard De la Fe Guedes met in London in 2006 and have been working together ever since.
The work: A film noir-ish work that plays with cinematic devices to generate the atmosphere of a Hitchcock thriller. Spot the cinematic tropes as the choreographers meddle with timing, the order of events and ideas of stillness and theatricality.
The verdict: A clever, stylised, suspenseful piece that's very watchable, but kind of low impact. In with a chance, though.

Freddie Opoku-Addaie and Frauke Requardt: 'Fidelity Project'
The artists: Requardt has already made some high profile pieces, including
'Electric Hotel' and 'Pictures from
an Exhibition'. Opoku-Addaie was also 2006's Place Prize finalist.
The work: Opoku-Addaie and Requardt both choreograph and direct other dancers, so this piece is all about getting back to making movement from the inside, rather than the outside. The result: the couple prod, slap, mirror and embrace each other in a cool and contained duet that simmers before it reaches boiling point. It also features popcorn.
The verdict: Two confident and accomplished performers getting out of their comfort zone. All good stuff, but it didn't blow us away.

Eva Recacha: Begin to Begin: a piece about dead ends
The artist: Choreographer Recacha usually makes site-specific work with the aim of making dance that crosses with ordinary life.
The work: A brilliant interrogation of form, taking the sparsest ingredients, mainly the repetitive rhyme 'Michael Finnegan', parsing its elements
and building it into an absurd but somehow beautiful trio that manages to be profoundly about the cycle of life and death (and perhaps the futility of it all) while also being about a nonsense song.
The verdict: Our favourite! This is the piece we'd like to see win. Not show-offy at all, but made with great craftsmanship, excellent performers and inspiring some genuine laughs.