Protein Dance revisited The Place this weekend to perform LOL (lots of love), a fresh and explosive work about love, relationships and our growing obsession with the internet and social media. Originally premièred in January 2011, LOL has been on tour around the UK since its return from a recent tour of the Middle East. Now back in London, Protein was as sharp as ever. LOL synthesized music, video, spoken word and dance to deliver a performance that was funny, sweet and thoughtful.

Protein Dance Kip Johnson in LOL (lots of love) © Nuno Santos
Protein Dance Kip Johnson in LOL (lots of love)
© Nuno Santos

Artistic Director of Protein Luca Silvestrini first got the idea for LOL after realising his own increasing online connectivity, and the trending popularity of online dating websites sites and the social media sites Facebook and Twitter. Silvestrini explained in the post-show talk that he then took this interest in the studio, where, through improvisation of text and movement, he and his dancers began exploring how love and relationships are changed when the internet is involved. Now in its set stages, part of LOL’s charm is that the company has managed to keep this feeling of improvisation – so instead of just following a script, each dancer moved and spoke with real meaning and integrity.

The show opened with three floor-to-ceiling screens showing a montage of people in front of computers, wearing various facial expressions and glazed-over eyes. Then six dancers populated the stage, all describing events in their lives, read like a Facebook feed, complete with smiley faces and kisses. From there the dancers explored many topics, from how many kisses to put after a signature, to how to make friends and find lovers online. Though the text was a large part of the show, it was striking how much more of the story was told through the movement. The dancing provided context to words that on their own were interesting, but with the movement became charged with meaning.

Enhanced by Andy Pink’s score of key-tapping, bleeping and computer-generated beats, the dancers narrated their online lives. But the movement subtext often told a much deeper story. Dancer Sally Marie depicted an online dating hopeful with bright, cheerful words, but an increasingly desperate movement vocabulary. This desperation gave the show a darker tint, which was echoed in the other narratives – desperation for any way to connect, but blindness to the shortcomings of online connections.

Another inspired choreographic choice was the juxtaposition between the desire for connection each dancer expressed in their text, and the complete inattention they often gave to other performers dancing with them. In a duet between Stuart Waters and Kip Johnson, Johnson tells his story of trying to make new friends, and meeting “Darren” – a picnic-loving, stylish and friendly guy – online. Throughout the telling Johnson is being thrown around and manipulated by Waters, performing a series of technically inventive lifts and tricks. But even though the two dancers remain in almost constant physical contact, Johnson is so intent on telling his story that he never even recognizes the existence of Waters.

LOL was comical yet sobering in its ability to pinpoint the idiosyncrasies of online communication. The dancers unashamedly represented the blatant need for online connectivity, but also the isolation and lack of fulfilment this need brings. The piece ended with Kip Johnson cradling a tangle of wires, desperate for human connection, but confined by his own attachment to this wire comfort blanket. Luca Silvestrini and the many artists involved in LOL delivered a well put-together and impactful comment on the notion of online communities, which was full of laughter, sadness, and lots of love.