Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Bonnie Bird Theatre, Laban, Deptford, London 15 May 2003

SOIRÉE (2003) Luca Silvestrini (Italy) and Bettina Strickler (Switzerland)
FOR THE FEEL OF THINGS (2003) Ben Wright (UK)
BRIGHTSIDE (2002) Henri Oguike (UK)
F(r) (2003) Richard Siegal (USA)
FROM THIS MOMENT ON... (2003) Cristian Duarte (Brazil) and Shani Granot (Israel)

DANCERS Theophilous Alade Elizabeth Barker River-life Carmalt
Szu-Lun Chen Elizabeth Dilley Laura Greenhalgh Geir Hytten
Adam Rutherford Nam-Eun Song Tracey Stanton Gianluca Vincentini

A matinee performance by this brilliant company of international post-graduate students enthralled an audience of all ages at the visitor-friendly LABAN in Deptford. Several older school children, who were studying dance, told us during the interval that they had been stunned by this, their first experience of cutting-edge modern dance. LABAN is an important new resource for south-east London, and this end-of-course production warrants critical attention equal to that received by college-based international opera courses, whose productions are widely recognised as amongst the most interesting and rewarding to be seen.

It was a generous couple of hours with all the variety you could wish; too much to absorb fully at a single viewing. Some of the creations were collaborations between choreographers and the dancers. The music and sound scores were eclectic and benefited from the high quality sound installation at the Bonnie Bird Theatre. Likewise the contribution of the lighting was crucial. In one item top lighting showed costumes to great advantage; in another, laser lines on the stage defined areas with no other scenery.

SOIRÉE explores a high society cocktail party with small-talk and champagne, with unplanned pairings and release of 'pre-civilised' behaviours as the alcohol-fuelled evening progresses. Silvestrini and Strickler encompass humour, spoken text and music with inventive movement reflecting the absurdity of everyday life, making you wonder why dancers by convention normally eschew vocal sounds? FOR THE FEEL OF THINGS, with an accompanying sound-scape by Alan Stones, was influenced by the imagery of Marc Chagall and 'explores the mystery of human physical connections'. Lighting by Anthony Bowne played down on the warm colours of the costumes to spell binding effect, wrapping around the moving bodies, folding and unfolding themselves with different shapes and patterns.

It was good to have another opportunity to see more work of Henri Oguike, whose company had pleased us greatly at our first visit to the new Laban. His BRIGHTSIDE is abstract and easy to enjoy, as were some of the others, but hard to write about coherently; we did wonder if it might not benefit from a cut of about five minutes?

The second half had a more serious and perhaps disturbing stamp. FROM THIS MOMENT ON... (2003) by Cristian Duarte (Brazil) and Shani Granot (Israel)* explored personal insecurity and isolation and for us was the most forward looking of the works on offer. It was notably effective, integrating the gaucheness of indecisive, idiosyncratic personal body language with twitching movements, abrupt juxtapositions of stillness, silence and frantic movements, aiming at a resolution in speed and flight.

- its obscure title unexplained - was influenced by the 'cultural/linguistic diversity' of the dancers. "Within a cryptic organizational sensibility" - every art form, or academic speciality, has its own private jargon - "the group engages in activities which are intended to intrigue the watcher without giving away the movements' meaning or function". Here two members of the company presented alienation in their own languages in lengthy statements to microphone - incomprehensible to us and to each other; perhaps that was how it was amongst them at first when the course assembled?

By the end of the afternoon we felt we 'knew' each of the dancers as individuals; contrasted in size, physique and colour, this was a democratic community that had learnt to work together, without the regimentation (and potential future health problems) which have tended to disenchant us with classical ballet. Their assured technique looked to us to be indistinguishable from the highest professional standards, and the repertoire of complex movements developed with these choreographers kept our attention and interest focussed every minute.

Peter & Alexa Woolf

Their 2003 tour takes TRANSITIONS DANCE COMPANY to Stirling 6 June, Tokyo and Japan 22 June-3 July, and to Jersey Arts Centre 9-10 July. Information at www.laban.org and www.transitionsdancecompany.org

Picts: Chris Nash


© Peter Grahame Woolf