Trinity Laban’s MA Dance Performance troupe, Transitions, performed three original works that form the basis of their academic and practical course.
The first of the three was 12, choreographed by Ederson Rodrigues Xavier, along with the company.
Suitably a piece for the company’s twelve dancers, nine females and three males stand shoulder to shoulder at the rear of the dance square wearing scant white satin costumes and bare legs. They enter one by one, making rapid folding shapes, giving the impression of being pulled one way then the next. There can be jerky animalistic movements too. Once all have joined and are working their individual themes, each drops like a stone in turn, then in the low light as they writhe on the floor, we notice each wears a fold of white LED lights within the upper chest part of their costumes. This brings to mind deep-sea amoebae, wriggling under microscope or underwater cameras. This thought stays with me.
The dance takes on different set pieces involving twos, threes or later, four groups of threes. These each work in twos with the third dancer being an interchangeable periphery. Occasionally, someone might oscillate their arms as they move backwards to rejoin the rear line, suggestive of a swimming jelly fish.
As the piece moves to its climax, the evolutionary soup is alive with increasing foment. A craziness descends, quite possibly fuelled by the survival of the fittest, if my theme has legs. Complex and fluid, heavy audible breaths increase with the fervency. Lights go off, with just laboured breaths heard and those LEDs seen.
Transitions Dance Company was founded in 1982 by Bonnie Bird, a member of the original Martha Graham Dance Company, and later Ms. Graham’s principal assistant. Transitions offers dancers a blend of study and the experience of being part of a touring company in advance of their becoming fully professional and independently seeking employment, roles and companies.
The second piece, My Dance, Your Touch by Theo Clinkard speaks much about being alone in a crowd, human contact and community, and is a charming work.
Sometimes performed without soundtrack, other times to field recordings from a Paris street, it is easy to visualise the human traffic of the metropolis. In silence, one dancer is in light, another emulates her while being semi-concealed in shade. A secondary pair then do the same.
There is the notion of a wide pedestrian crossing amidst the hum of vehicles and Parisian life. The skittish, lightness of touch and the sharing of smiles reminds one of any French film from the 1960s.
The dancers then pair up, one standing behind the other. The front dancers seem as if they want to commit to a close relationship, a state that is welcomed by their partner, who supports and catches them. They tenderly supply all the care and encouragement asked – until incrementally, to the strains of Lorraine Ellison plaintively singing “Stay.… with me baby…”, the neediness starts to bore and the one-time provider begins repelling the drag who’s sucking the life from them with a rejection bordering on violent. This swift changing mood piece is excellently performed, perhaps almost too realistically as there are noticeable (but unintentional) smears of blood on the floor from one couple.
The final section has a boy and girl each put on teddy bear onesies and perform a sweet courtship of mutual support that has them try different ways of folding into each other, after placing their partners arms into a form that best suits their cwtching needs.
After the interval, Fieldwork by Dog Kennel Hill Project (with major input from the dancers) uses verbal narrative and movement to work through a simple allegory. We hear personal stories of how these dancers have left their homes in American, mainland Europe, Scotland and the North of England to eventually arrive at Trinity Laban as cut adrift strangers. Like small children learning to control their motor skills, they fall, slide and go round in circles before gradually pairing up to create dance before expanding in number to become a company.
The basic story of how young people go to college and find it scary, disorienting and eventually constructive, familiar and unifying, put together with dance that does not hold the imagination as had the earlier pieces, leaves Fieldwork feeling like a student project from regular education. It came over as gimmicky and short on substance with the prolonged use of voices being a distraction and as such, was the least satisfying of the evening’s programme.
Having enjoyed two complex and clever interpretative performances earlier, this latter dance serves to give a taste of the wider journey on which these young dancers will soon embark.