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  • Miles Hedley

TRANSITIONS Dance triple bill at Laban

If you ever wanted an example of the diversity dance is capable of providing you’d struggle to find a better one than Transitions’ triple bill at Laban, ranging as it did from the deepest of deep truths to unbridled frivolousness.

The first half of the performance dealt with matters of life - and death. From Dirt To Soil, created by American choreographer Karole Armitage, replaced a traditional music score with a spoken commentary about the perilous future of our planet by renowned agriculturalist Wes Jackson.

His words of warning were a brilliant counterpoint to the graceful movements of the dancers – indeed, their gracefulness increased as Jackson’s message grew darker.

But there were lighter moments too. The cast revelled in playing apes and early hominids as Jackson looked back on human evolution. And there was a particularly wonderful sequence about what would happen if a homo erectus got on a bus today – the flight of the modern humans was a masterclass in balletic clowning.

Armitage’s work was followed by Marina Collard’s many much, many much too many. As usual with Collard, the oddness of the title seemed to reflect her challenging choreography, which in this piece was full of sudden entrances and exits, interrupted interactions, one-sided interfaces and group sequences involving all the dancers in which they appeared to be acting as autonomous, almost anti-social beings.

The unsettling mood this created was heightened by Paul Newland’s accompanying soundscape – a mix of minimalism and eerily auto-tuned voice effects that reached a chilling climax as the dancers left the stage until only one was left, reaching skyward until she was enveloped in darkness. It was as good an allegory of life and death as I have seen.

The final piece was in massive contrast to the soul-searching that had gone on in the first half of the evening. Hetain Patel’s YouTube Made Me required the cast to talk rather than dance as they acted out a series of fictitious internet how-to videos that there both absurd and vacuous. The subjects included how to stand in a feminine way, how to stop being boring and how to prevent your trainers getting creased.

It was entertaining enough and often very funny. But it wasn’t really dance – and we all already know these types of videos are absurd and vacuous, so it was hard to see the point of it.

It highlighted a potential flaw in any triple bill – how to maintain a sense of cohesion. The pieces by Armitage and Collard dug deep and delivered some real truths. Patel’s work, though fun, felt far too lightweight by comparison.

A final word about about the dancers themselves – they were terrific. So respect to Sophie Halstead, Virginia Poli, Hattie Harding, Shannon Oleson, Benjamin Head, Leopold Meredith, Jasmine Rose Man, Lee Xue Jing, Pinelopi Mousga, Nadine Elise Muncey, Caterina Morandini, Camélia Veillon, Christina Prompona, Jiaxin Yuan, Suzie Holmes, Fay Patterson, Lizzie Barker, Michael Mannion and Florence Meredith.

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