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Transitions Dance Company - 'Three Trees Hugging,' 'Divided,' 'Intertwining,' 'Transitions,' 'trans[odiem]*'

by Julia Skene-Wenzel

April 28, 2004 -- Bonnie Bird Theatre, Laban Centre, London

Transition – a passage or change from one state to another – a time that can be challenging, especially when moving from education into professional working life. Dance artists often find themselves battling through auditions without a support network and little experience to see them through. This is where Transitions Dance Company comes in. By allowing its dancers to gain an insight of working with a company while still relying on an institutional safety net, it successfully bridges both worlds. Over the past twenty years, it has enabled artists to work with international choreographers and tour a full program.

The Transitions' 2004 London premiere has opened at the company's home, the Laban Centre. Under the direction of David Waring, a strong cast of nine dancers has developed four new commissions and one reconstruction of a former repertoire piece. With youthful enthusiasm and relentless energy, this year's company impresses not only with a well-polished performance, but also with its display of individual talent and the ability to grasp and perform a variety of theatrical styles.

American Victor Quijada's "Three Trees Hugging" explores the emotional context of meetings and partings. From physical isolation to the inherent power struggle in relationships, the piece sheds light onto human interaction. Torn between yielding towards and the defiance of contact, three dancers allow elements of body popping to seamlessly interlink with contact improvisation.

Also drawing on a variety of influences, the reconstruction of "Divided" combines Indian dance with martial arts and North American dance. Supported by Lars Jensen's dazzling lighting design, Roger Sinha's blend of Eastern and Western culture creates a sensual swirl of color, sound and motion.

Unfortunately, Willi Dorner's "Intertwining" opens with a lonely silhouette reaching into a spotlight. The same opening is used by both previous pieces and therefore seems rather dull, a regrettable oversight by the programmer. The Austrian choreographer challenges with acrobatic partnering sequences, but the piece is a development of an existing duet, and it shows. The movement vocabulary was no doubt intriguing in its original format, but seems limited in a sextet.

Representation of the perfect dance body and traditional frameworks of beauty form the basis for Miguel Pereira's exploration, "Transitions." Pushing the limits of contemporary dance, the Portuguese choreographer is renowned for his daring performance art. "Transitions'" transition involves all nine company members who shed their individuality and gradually merge into a collectively smiling, slightly creepy group of animated, dancing tuxedos. In a piece full of surprises, chairs replace dancers as moving objects and the soundscape solemnly consists of its participants' voices. Its grounding in European Dance Theatre adds another genre to the students' repertoire, but while it makes a clear statement, it also remains too close to the surface and thus does not escape related cliché images.

Rafael Bonachela closes the program with "trans[odiem]*," a piece inspired by movement itself. His work comprises and effortlessly moves from commercial to the avant-garde and is the perfect vehicle for the company. It allows the cast to do what they do best – just dance. Limbs are scissoring through the space; weight shifts towards gravity while jumps and daring lifts appear out of the unexpected – an appropriate finish for a promising group of new dancers who pulsate the space and enthuse their audience.

In the subsequent question and answer section, they seem happy and confident, looking ahead to a career in dance. It is this quality that Transitions Dance Company hopes to inspire in their students, and this year's graduates are a manifest to these aspirations.

Edited by Lori Ibay

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