LOL (Lots of Love) at Protein Dance online
As part of their 21st birthday celebration this year, Protein Dance Company are bringing back a number of significant past works, reformatted for a so-called “digital stage”; of these, LOL (Lots of Love) is perhaps the most uncanny, navigating the untidy collections of affectations and absences that define our online lives.
Though first developed for performance back in 2011, LOL acutely captures the tension between the physical and virtual worlds today, as far as they can be neatly separated. Choreographed to foreground this contrast, the dancers respond to each other with remarkable skill, maintaining the necessary fluency and precision of movement while delivering a jarring sense of anxiety, self-consciousness and hesitation. This is crystallised in a number of digital interruptions, wherein the music melts into a recording of someone typing, or the dancers disappear, to re-enter only as representations on a screen. The effect is that of a destabilising piling up of impressions that strikes the audience without overwhelming the ongoing stories of the characters that underpin the performance.
Director Luca Silvestrini and composer Andy Pink have accomplished a considerable feat, merging the aesthetics of dance with the near-meaningless jargon that permeates so much of our online experience and imbuing the experience with both humour and a quiet sadness that feels inevitable. A bare stage, decorated only with a bundle of tangled wires alternately clutched by one dancer or another, throws the isolation of each character and an ever-present emptiness into relief, the latter (and the former) always on the verge of being filled up with words or song or dance but ultimately insatiable. The navigation of the space of the stage and the spaces between dancers is masterful – moments of closeness or intimacy seem always marked by an antagonism approaching violence, or perhaps fear, hinting at the ways in which our over-dependency on online communications might encroach upon, disrupt and redefine our relations to each other in the “real” world.