Fortunate enough to bag sponsorship from Bloomberg, The Place Prize is a biennial contemporary dance competition which commissions 20 British choreographers to create brand new work and compete for a £25k prize based on both professional opinion and a popular audience vote. Bloomberg's financial clout underwrites the cash prize with no strings for the recipient and also, interestingly, peppers the Robin Howard Theatre with suits when the corporate blag comes out to play, making for a welcome different kind of audience for this kind of dance. Their presence almost certainly played a part in propelling Nina Rajarani's "Quick!" to glory last year, dealing as it did with the life of city boys, albeit via the medium of South East Asian dance.
Sponsorship for dance is hard enough to come by as it is, let alone for relatively obscure, totally new, risk taking stuff and we've always been chuffed that it's the dinky, cool Place that gets to hothouse this emerging talent and host the month long competition, rather than its bigger and more establishment sister at Sadlers Wells (recently rebranded London's Dance House - is being a house more accessible and groovy than a straightforward theatre? But we digress...) Actually, you wouldn't get the audiences at Sadlers - it's massive in comparison - but more publicity would certainly abound and that's what The Place Prize needs because we really think you should go and see some of this stuff.
It goes thus: applicants sent in videos of work they'd like to make. These were sifted through and 20 were chosen and given £5,000 each plus studio time and support from the venue to create the work. All 20 then present a preview performance and a semi-final performance at the Robin Howard Theatre. Each semi-final has an audience vote - employing technology only previously before seen on Who Wants To Be A Millionare - and the best loved audience-voted piece overall goes through to the finals. 4 other pieces are selected by a judging panel. Each finalist then presents their piece as part of a mixed bill over 10 nights, showcasing the top talent of the competition to London's discerning public who can, furthermore, pick a favourite every night and award them a handy grand. Power to the people! On the final night, 27 September, an overall winner is picked.
We'll be reporting back from the first semi-final and offering you free tickets to a final so get interested. This is an exciting, unpredictable and intense competition that deserves a wider audience.
The first Place preview is on 2 September, finals are 17-20 & 22-27 September at 8pm at The Place, Dukes Place, off Euston Road, NW1. Visit the website for full listings and to book tickets (£5-15).
Image courtesy of The Place