London’s the Place has been running its Resolution Festival for more than 25 years. The annual showcase, which presents a spate of new dance works throughout January and February, is a boon for emerging artists: along with a performance platform, the dancemakers who participate receive professional support and guidance throughout the production process—a valuable leg up in a dance scene as competitive as London’s. The festival’s track record for launching famous faces is another draw: some of the biggest names in contemporary British dance, including Wayne McGregor and Hofesh Shechter, got their start on the Resolution stage.
The 2016 line-up features some 80 new works, divvied across a series of mixed bills. The programme I attended featured two companies unfamiliar to me—Group 11 and Co_Motion—plus one I saw last year in a collaboration with Just Us Dance founder Joseph Toonga: Botis Seva’s Far From the Norm.
The FFtN troupe was slick and riveting, putting forward a simmering snarl of a piece (“Rek”) featuring five figures slithering like swamp-things. The performers, the men topless and the women in low-cut halters, spend much of the piece facing upstage, delivering writhing, rippling solos designed to show off their brawny back musculature. A mucky soundscape of drips and trickles accompanies their creaturely contortions, conjuring the image of a primordial bog oozing with beasties. Seva’s movement vocabulary is expansive and wildly original, taking already unusual shapes and distorting them to the brink of deformity, a demand the dancers met with gusto. Factor in the syncopated breathing and escalating tempo, and it was a gripping watch, particularly the final minutes, an explosion of ecstatic convulsions and quivers.
Preceding “Rek” was “Searching for the Dead,” choreographed by Temitope Ajose-Cutting and presented by Group 11. The piece blends speech, live music and dance to ruminate on “the many ‘others’ within us,” from deceased relatives to past lovers. “These are all the boys I’ve kissed,” one of the five performers told us, totting up a series of Toms and Daniels, while another rattled off “a list of the people I’d like to forget,” and a third invited the audience to volunteer “people no longer with us” (this prompts mention of grandparents past as well as some late celebrities, like David Bowie). The musings felt a tad contrived, but the dance that accompanied was fresh and unforced, a playful flurry of spins and sprints and creative tableaux, all punctuated with audible grunts and sighs that helped bring the melancholy spirit of reflection to the forefront.
The bill ended with a vivid, punchy offering called “Force” from Catherine Ibbotson and Amy Lovelock for Co_Motion, a London-based contemporary company. Here, four women lit up a dark stage with headlong hurdles into each other’s arms, each blast of motion illuminated with a bright spotlight. The piece is an intriguing experiment in kinetics, the dancers exploring all manner of risky balances and weight transfers. The acrobatics (flips, backbends, walkovers, slides) are impressive, but the real power lies in the group’s tight unison and stamina: after 15 minutes of breakneck jumps, they still found the energy to hurl themselves on and off a three-foot-tall box without missing a beat.
Their vigour, like FFtN’s imaginative imagery and Group 11’s thematic depth, is a great embodiment of the Resolution spirit—a celebration of grit and innovation in contemporary dance. Hats off to these emerging artists and to the Place for encouraging their exposure.