'See through Dance' at The Place

by Aaron Cezar

November, 2003

Image - Students limber up on the stretching areas of the
London Contemporary Dance School entrance on Flaxman Terrace
Photo by Dennis Gilbert, courtesy of The Place

During London Open House weekend, 20-21 September 2003, The Place was open to the public with tours of normally inaccessible areas, including the theatre’s backstage, studio space, school library, and back corridors. This accessibility allowed the community to have unique architectural experiences, such as standing in an empty dance studio, seeing dance rehearsals in session, and walking across a working stage.

In addition to understanding The Place’s architecture, the aim of London Open House was to educate the public about the nature of the work happening at The Place. This opportunity also hoped to influence those who came to celebrate architecture, but in doing so, were exposed to contemporary dance, perhaps for the first time. An estimated 475 people participated in The Place’s guided performance tours. Visitors included a range of nationalities, ages and interest areas.

LOH visitors were inspired by “PROject dance”; a film installation projecting performances by the resident youth company Shift, Hurricane ’03 (the all-boys youth project) and Andile Sotiya. Supported by Camden Council’s Artist-in-Residence Fund, the Shift dancers worked with video maker and photographer Benedict Johnson and choreographer Jamieson Dryburgh to create dance with an intimate and delicate response to The Place’s hidden architecture. “PROject dance” demonstrates the relationships between dance and the building while revealing key architectural spaces through both the choreography and the film projections.

The exhibition of the ‘hidden’ activities of The Place took the appearance of an ‘x-ray’ of the historic building and its award-winning re-development. Footage of Shift, performing site-specific choreography throughout the building, and performances from Hurricane ’03, were projected on the first floor of the Flaxman Terrace entrance of the building. The project demonstrated the relationships between dance and the building while revealing key architectural spaces through both the choreography and the projections.

“PROject dance” helped visitors understand the particular architecture design in which these activities take place and enriched their experience of dance and architecture.

Other highlights of the tours included Andile Sotiya’s “Flaxman”, which aspires to take dance out of traditional spaces and into the public realm, illuminating the extent that exterior design choices affect the way people move and are perceived in space. Outside the Flaxman Terrace entrance of The Place, the conversation between breakdancer/ skateboarder Mickael (Marso) Riviere and contemporary/classical dancer Christian Bang-Krogh challenges the relationship between pedestrians and public spaces – do these two work together or in opposition to their environment?

During the tour, visitors also saw dance in the more traditional areas of the building from the postgraduate student company EDge, Shift, and Sue Maclennan’s “Lifeforms”. The tour concluded with Frauke Requardt performing a short solo, “The drink after”, outside the Duke’s Road entrance of the Grade II listed building. In her first commission, she plays with the state of mind of two members of an audience after having seen a performance.

Responses to the ‘See Through Dance’ event were extremely positive ranging from ‘very inspiring’ to ‘creative, interactive, and intuitive’. The most noteworthy comment came from Tony Edwards of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA); ‘A good guide to The Place – seeing the building in use with dancers is an excellent way of perceiving architecture.’


Edited by Stuart Sweeney

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