(Post delayed but I’m a completist so couldn’t just leave unpublished) Hull Dance Prize 2017 happened. No really it did, last Saturday inside Hull Truck, an esteemed panel deliberated until announcing the winner Grim Visions. The audience are in charge of the other award and with the vagaries of the digital keypad voting system explained to all, we are left to hit the button after all five pieces have been presented.
The easiest way to identify the five dances competing for the Choreographic Prize (Judges Award) and the Audience Award is as follows:
Grim Visions: the solo dystopian one, dark unsettling and downright scary
Volume 1: – group piece, colourful, fresh and cool
This Tide of Humber: duet with familiar maritime thematic projections: verse by poet Imtiaz Dharker
Deep Sea: the one with the squirrel and the polo
Seedling: plant-based duet with lifts and the odd gardener
Let’s get this out of the way first, the best dancers were Jamaal Burkmar Company. Their laid-back cool groove was as fresh and tangy as freshly squeezed orange juice. Volume 1 begins from the floor as the four dancers are curled up limbs entangled. To a soundtrack including D’Angelo and Childish Gambino celebrating black urban youth culture, early morning blends into the rhythm and routine of daily life and eventually escapes into the freedom of night. With three clearly defined moods the choreographic language is fresh, dynamic, utterly absorbing and exciting to watch.
Tide of the Humber by local company JoinedUp Dance Co. hit the jackpot earlier this year with the collaboration with Imtiaz Dharker combining dance and poetry. The performance and subsequent reaction to the work, from the packed audience at Contains Strong Language earlier this year, is surely their prize. The relationship between the two is difficult to see, the different images of water lead the choreography; fountains, falling rain etc. I liked the stepping over phrases the rolling waves sequence, the foundling on the shore, but the robe-like outfits were distracting and heavy, seemed to weigh the movement down. The two pass each other like ships in the night, where is the tenderness between them, the connection, the eye contact?
My personal favourite was Deep Sea, a title that now throws up even more questions. A solo work with an expressive dancer Tora Hed in red velour. There are moments during the opening minutes, where she appears to break free of the performance, noticing the presence of the audience for the first time and then inviting them into her playful world. The curious childlike movement stops and starts in puzzling fashion, throwing up more questions than answers. There’s also the question of the squirrel… sat nonchalantly on a pile of earth stage left. Nearing the squirrel, just before blackout, the pile of earth moves and I lurch back in my seat. I didn’t have a clue what was going on throughout Deep Sea, but I won’t forget it.
The £3,500 prize awarded by the Judges Panel, is given to the choreography that they consider could benefit from further financial investment. In this way they can choose to reward choreography from a start-up company, or work that is performed by more experienced companies.
This year’s winner Rosetta with Živilė Virkutytė sound by Jūra Elena Šedytė & Andrius Šiurys is a darkly disturbing new work, that questions the way the body moves, at times appearing non-human alien, even insect-like. The work is intense, the noise-art sound design is oppressive and the strobe effects make for a visceral performance. By using projection mapping mesh-like projections appear on the body as it moves, sending echoes of itself across the screen like acid tracers by way of kinetic projection software…
Rosetta incorporates classic horror tropes, the crawling creeping on the floor, hair hanging in front of face reminiscent of the girl emerging from the well in The Ring. The silhouetted shape continuously being scanned, barcoded suggests future, science fiction, consumerism. A worthy winner, a work that I can imagine being performed as a site specific piece, in a warehouse abandoned factory setting.
The Audience Award went to the Middleton Corpus for their work Seedling. This piece was all about the relationship and awareness of the two dancers in partnership. Incredibly athletic the two bodies began in closed position and slowly grew with each other whilst managing to remain in contact throughout to intricately depict the germination of a single seed: reminded me of the time-lapse sequences found in nature docs.
In 2016 Middleton Corpus impressed with Clouds so much, that they returned to Hull for Transgressions and performed the piece inside a church, a curatorial decision which elevated the work and audiences were treated to a mesmeric almost spiritual experience. Following that same course, I’d like to see what effect it would have on the work seeing Seedling in the forest among all the shapes and curves of the natural world.
It has been a long year and dance has featured a fair amount in the 2017 programme, one can only hope that considerable audience building has been achieved, that new folk are being turned on to dance: there are new classes for beginners and pro-dancers as a result of some of this development and more opportunities for community dance.
See Past Award Winners Click Here