Laban Theatre, London
May 31, 2017
Transitions Dance Company, the very first student company to bridge that crucial gap between training and the profession, is a magnet for talented contemporary artists. Playing to the home crowd at the Laban Theatre, this year’s programme presented three pieces closing on & by Cristian Duarte, a real winner.
It is difficult to define the appeal of this extraordinary piece and I would imagine it is different at each performance as the dancers put a great deal of themselves into the work. Osian Meilir, wearing an odd combination of patterned shorts and Scandi-type sweater, rolls around the stage in a slow reverie as others drift on, also in disordered dress, before they eventually pose in a group photoshoot, grinning like Cheshire cats. Each then finds their space in a collective of individuals as the stage is filled with sinuous bodies finding private pleasure in moving.
There are odd happenings with sheets of plastic and bits of string but the fun starts as the restrictions of the stage prove unable to contain so many mavericks and they spill into the stalls and gently insinuate themselves into the audience. Not even the very back row was safe as the young artists with the savvy of seasoned pros ‘worked’ the punters. They climbed over seats and circumvented bodies with gentle humour and an inner compulsion that drew and held our attention. Meantime when they return at intervals to the stage, they indulge in sneaky outbreaks of party tricks: a flip, a spin or a roll in the air before mooching on their way. It is a strangely compulsive piece and works surprisingly well.
The opening work, Charles Linehan’s Nothing but Time, was lit with a single spot throwing a harsh white light across the bare stage and attaching a dark shadow to each dancer. Backgrounded by a drone of industrial sound it suggests a sparse dystopian environment. The programme notes told of research into drone technology and indicated patterns of action and intricate precision, but in truth there was little to engage in so minimal a work.
Oded Ronen’s Kintsugi found inspiration in the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with seams of golden lacquer. That creates a launch pad for ideas of melding a broken world. The group comes together in rhythmic unity before splintering into subgroups and solos. A quirky duet by Giannis Economides and Sean Murray plays on the men’s height differential to clever effect and brief solos show individual talents. A tracery of gold dust drawn into a jagged line by the dancers’ hands divides the stage, while occasional eruptions of gold powder lighten the sombre mood.
With such obvious talent – the programme photos suggest these dancers are seriously good – the inclusion of a dance work that pushed them to their limits would have been most welcome. However, Duarte’s work ensured that the audience went home in a warm glow.