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Transitions Dance Company: Mixed Bills

Mixed Bill 2007

Bonnie Bird Theatre, Laban, Deptford
2 May 2007 (then on tour)

New choreography by:

Jenni Kivela (Finland) November

Aszure Barton (Canada) Alto

Pablo Ventura (Spain) Nexus-6

Cristian Duarte
(Brazil) It

This is an annual date always eagerly awaited, the culmination of the work of another group of graduate dancers "taking their first steps into the professional dance arena", and specialising in high energy performance.

This year's offerings were as astonishing as those before, and their programme had a breathtaking diversity. November was charming and unusual for the inclusion of speech texts, which helped to individuate the dancers. The work displayed huge energy and impressive precision, and was accompanied by interesting music scores from Nat King Cole to Bizet, transmitted at just the right volume. If there were a video or DVD to be had, it is one we would play again and again for ourselves and to guests.

Alto was developed without prior "strategy or conceptual idea". You'd never guess, so clever was it in counterpointing scores by Pergolesi and Vivaldi with interesting movement and interactions between the dancers.

But here Musical Pointers has again to enter a caveat - the same as for WHITE SPACE to Scarlatti* last year. This 18th C music was inordinately loud, making one harbour suspicions that those involved in that important decision may never (as indeed was the case for dance fans sitting next to us) have heard baroque music live? I don't think it really helped to raise the excitement which was generated in spades by the dancing. It also indicated an absence of overall control for the show as a whole?

If Transitions Dance Company feels obliged to dance exclusively to recorded sound, then they should experiment with different levels, and try to find out if audiences react less positively if the music is delivered at more or less concert levels; even though we know that kids like it loud...

And what has happened about the potential for live music with dance which should be so easily available through the Trinity/Laban association with our prestigious local College of Music in Greenwich?

Pablo Ventura's Nexus-6 was the hardest work to relate to; austere, with geometric placements and movements on a carefully taped space, the dancers in identical shiny blue-grey body hugging costumes which brought to mind automatoms in sci-fi films. No "human" interactions here. We were not alone in feeling it went on for perhaps ten minutes too long. For a way into Ventura's choreographic credo, see http://www.ifi.unizh.ch/~riedl/Ventura.html.

How many angels can dance on a pinhead? This conundrum of medieval philosophy was brilliantly illustrated by Cristian Duarte's It.

It all started with something squirming on the ground that looked like conjoined triplets with protruding limbs (anybody's guess as to whose?!!) trying to assert and communicate individuality.

Looking like a reversal of customary expectations of dancers expanding into most of the available space, an improbable twelve bodies imploded additively into a tight, writhing and wriggling ball, squeaking, grating and grunting across the floor.

More and more dancers piled into this weird social body illustrating 'togetherness' and animal closeness of an extreme kind. Imagine for yourself a cross between a prolonged but non-violent rugby tackle, a large family of fox cubs playfully rolling into and over each other, or a hydra with chaotically tangled tentacles moving slowly as a tight mass.

The expressivity of movements through the protruding limbs was astonishing and hilarious. Quite a feat of organisation to have everyone emerge alive, unscathed and able to slither, crawl or creep away into the aisles to dissolve this extraordinary and very funny event which somehow can (just) be subsumed under the capacious umbrella of Contemporary Dance.

A word about the venue. The theatre itself is pleasing, and equipped with up to the minute facilities; all that I would urge again is moderation in employing the sound facilities, with their banks of large loud speakers to left and right.* And yes, Laban is as amazing a building as the photo above suggests, its subtle colouring inspired by those of an oil spill in Deptford Creek outside; if you don't know it, to see a show there is well worth making a longish journey.

Peter & Alexa Woolf


see also Transitions Dance Company: Mixed Bill 2006

* - - WHITE SPACE to sonatas from the Scarlatti's 'Complete Works' (sic) had the dancers accompanied by a recording which was grotesquely over-amplified - perhaps to drown the noise from the kids? An opportunity lost to introduce young audiences to an instrument they might never listen to again, one which can hold its own without having its character totally changed.