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The Banquet
Protein Dance Company at Bonnie Bird Theatre, Laban, Deptford 15 January Benjamin Dunks, Tasha Gilmore, Luca Silvestrini, Esther Weisskopf

LABAN, named RIBA BUILDING OF THE YEAR 2003, has acquired national exposure with winning the Stirling Architectural Prize 2004. This ambitious dance show brought a more elaborate staging to Bonnie Bird Theatre than those productions we reviewed in the 2003 season.

The company puts the oddities of ordinary human behaviour under the choreographic microscope. In their examinations of social rituals in a banquet for only two couples, who don't seem to know each other well, the behaviour gets increasingly outrageous and the dancers resort to animal impersonations in what seems to be the examination of the choreographers belief in an unsavoury underlying bestiality in modern-day partying.

It begins with a take on evolution, the dancers slithering across the stage, becoming scampering monkeys, and metamorphosing into elegantly dressed guests at a dinner party. But as they feed, socialise, compete, and make mating moves they tend to regress into more primitive animal behaviour.

Richard Strange, the master of this ceremony, apparently their host (or is he an employed waiter?) augments spoken comments by accompanying himself on the guitar and accordion, making an live effective bridge to the mainly recorded sound track by David Coulter, which enjoys the great advantage at Laban of quality sound projection equipment.

The setting has a table laid for four in a strange angled room with nothing horizontal, so half the fun is how they get around this taxing environment, which has the illogicality of an Escher architectural fantasy, leading to a great deal of comical climbing jokes as they find their way around this impossible environment.

The Banquet blends humour, rudimentary text utterance and music with idiosyncratic movement in a caricature of everyday leisure activity, and challenges the normal expectation that dancers will display all that can be done with their limbs, but generally maintain bland facial expressions and silent vocal chords. It made for an entertaining, thought provoking and thoroughly engaging hour and a quarter, and can be seen around the country till mid-February. Look out also for their 2002 success Publife, to be revived later this year.

Early February events at Laban:

Tuesday 3 , 7:30pm Lecture: The Mahlers and the Dance of Life A Gustav Mahler Society UK presentation exploring the lives of Gustav and Alma Mahler as well as considering how the music Gustav composed and their relationship have inspired choreographers down the years.

Wednesday 4, 7pm Laban Lecture: The Austrian Connection An investigation into the work of Rudolf Laban, Rosalia Chladek and Gertrud Bodenwieser - and its impact on contemporary European and international dance theatre.

Thursday 5 - Friday 6, 7:30pm Opus 1: Carole Brown/Mano Creates, Theatre enCorps and Annemarie Papp
three internationally renowned choreographers present brand new duets celebrating Austrian cultural heritage and the life and work of Gustav Mahler. 

Tuesday 10, 7:30pm Charles Linehan Company: New Quartet and Grand Junction New Quartet is a dance for four people and includes William Basinski's 'Melancholia' recordings of disintegrating tape loops of piano fragments. Grand Junction is a densely atmospheric dance that explores the shifting psychology and terrain of the relationship between two performers.

For further forthcoming events at Laban visit their website and get details of public performances from info@laban.org


© Peter Grahame Woolf