When the British Council brought the Light Surgeons to Bangkok last month, we expressed delight that this cultural institution was proving it wasn’t just interested in teaching the English language. Now it’s reinforcing that position by bringing in “LOL: Lots of Love” by Protein Dance.
Last year’s recipient of the National Dance Critics Award for Best Independent Dance Company, Protein Dance was founded in 1997 by Luca Silvestrini, a graduate from the Laban Centre.
“What characterises Protein is dance theatre work that is engaging, thought-provoking and a good night out for everyone,” says Silvestrini. “These ingredients have been part of our menu from the very start. We are also fairly distinctive for the range and the quality of our participatory- and community-based work as these are not just an extra company activity, but a natural development of our belief that dance is a creative experience available and physically, socially and emotionally important to everyone.
“Winning that award was a wonderful recognition of 15 years of good work and an encouragement to continue to do more and better. I am not quite sure what the Critics Circle mean by ‘Independent’, but for me that stands for the ability to believe and thrive for your artistic mission against all the possible trends and difficulties you might be facing.”
When Silvestrini auditions his performers, he looks for, “people who have something to say in life and who are truly interested in the subject matter I am tackling. I am generally attracted to real people – to dancers that audiences can connect with. I am of course interested in their physical and vocal skills, but these come usually after the ability to offer a point a view and to share a creative journey that employs personal experiences and real emotions.
“The work is co-devised – therefore, a Protein performer is more an artistic collaborator than a pretty dancer.
His work has always been right on the zeitgeist – for example, his “Publife”(2002) comments on Britain’s booze culture, “Big Sale” (2005) on consumerism and “B for Body” (2006) on obsession with body image. He’s now developing a work on cultural identity and migration to be premiered next year.
His 2011 work “LOL: Lots of Love” is subtitled “Love wanting and connectedness in an electronic age”.
“The talking and dancing at the same time, which is so central to ‘LOL’, is something I have been working towards for many years and it feels that I have now developed a good way of complementing words and movement. I am interested in making work where the spoken word and the physical expression can support and enrich each other.”
“LOL” has been seen throughout the UK as well as in Beirut, Tunis, Moscow, Marrakesh, Turin and Warsaw.
Silvestrini says audience reactions “go beyond where people are from and live. This means that the work contains universal messages and relates to themes that are globally relevant. The influence of social media in the way we love and connect is a transnational and transcultural debate, even in the Middle East, where the use of the Internet is strongly attached to a very specific political context. particularly strong there was the reaction to the way ‘LOL’ presents and talks freely about love and homosexuality.”
The performance has received four-star reviews from The Guardian, The Times and The Scotsman. The former’s Judith Mackrell put it among the year’s best and wrote, “Talking and dancing at high speed, the cast nail, with elegant wit, the language of mailing, messaging and tweeting: spoken monologues are delivered in hectic compressed style, complete with emoticons, OMGs, kisses and trails of dots. It’s human communication on virtual speed, exhilarating and funny, but the sadness begins to surface when the focus of the piece shifts to the world of Internet dating. Women struggle to assert their personalities through the brutal conventions of date-site profiles.”
On this tour, “LOL” was part of a dance festival in Bogota, last Thursday and Friday, and the company arrived in Bangkok on Sunday. Their body clock should be right on our time come their Southeast Asia premiere, made possible by a collaboration of the British Council, the International Dance Festival and World Performances @ Drama Chula.
“LOL” is at Chulalongkorn University’s Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts on Thursday and Friday at 7:30pm and Saturday at 2:30pm, all followed by a Q&A. Tickets cost Bt600 to Bt1,800 (Bt300 for students) at thaiticketmajor.
Come up with a fun and alternative meaning of “LOL” (sorry, “lots of love”, “laugh out loud” or “log out, loser” are not fun enough) and e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon tomorrow, putting “LOL” as the subject. The best five will win pairs of tickets to Saturday afternoon’s show.
Dance films from the UK and Germany screen today through Friday at 6 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Admission is free.