Interview Luca Silvestrini, founder of Protein dance company talks about what energises ‘Lots of Love’ their latest production

How do you fall in love? Well, today, it usually involves Facebook. A little bit of Googling, for sure. Perhaps some flirting via Twitter. Then, of course, there’s Whatsapp, BBM and SMS, when you really want to talk.

Technology makes relationships easier. Or does it? That’s what founder and creator of Protein, Luca Silvestrini, wanted to find out when he started work on LOL (Lots Of Love). A dance company that studies everyday issues and then translates them onto the stage with idiosyncratic dance theatre, Protein began its tour of India in Chennai.

As his team of dancers begin rehearsals at the venue, the Sir Mutha Venkata Subbarao Auditorium, Silvestrini discusses why modern love fascinates him. “My work always starts from my curiosity about a subject. I find an angle, and then narrow it down,” he says, adding that LOL began when he started to wonder about “personal connections in a networked world.” While we are unquestionably more networked than ever before, he asks whether that’s a good thing. “People spend more time communicating now. But what is the computer’s effect on human communication?”

Undoubtedly, Silvestrini says the rhythm of communication has changed. “We are saying more. But revealing less about ourselves,” he says. He talks of how we can use technology to create personas that might not necessarily be representative of who we really are. “Isn’t there a sense of distortion there? For people it’s a safer way to communicate. More controlled.”

This, he says, leads to a whole new set of problems. “There is less spontaneity. Many people first meet online. This can create an expectation. It can be misleading. Your online identity in not necessarily who you are. It’s who you want to be. Every time you write a profile, it is an edited version of yourself. People who know how to use technology have better profiles. Better online personalities. You choose to be who you want, to get what you want.” He adds, “It is mediated by very powerful mechanisms. We underestimate how influential the actual medium is.”

However Silvestrini does add that he’s not necessarily pessimistic about love in the age of the Internet. “This is not a negative view.” In fact, he says, people respond very differently to LOL depending on their age. For those below the age of 20, the Internet and technology blend so seamlessly into their lives that they can’t understand why it’s even an issue. “Our generation — we see the difference. For those who are computer native, they are less convinced about the critical approach. But that’s only because they have nothing to compare it to.”

He shrugs that our dependence on modern methods of communication is inevitable. Look at how addicted we are to our smart phones. “It’s changed the way we relate to people. We’re constantly distracted. We’re able to split our attention.” He holds up an imaginary mobile phone, mimicking how people talk and text simultaneously. “We now live parallel lives. Real and online. To a point where we can’t separate them anymore.”

LOL is about love, a subject that manages to be both difficult and easy to tackle — depending on how you look at it. “Difficult because of its predictability. Its tendency to be banal. Easy because it’s such a powerful, universal human emotion.” The show has proved so popular it’s toured for two years. “We’ve been — well — everywhere. The Middle East, Poland, Italy, Thailand, Russia, North Africa…”

As for Silvestrini, he comes from Italy. “I moved to London in 1994 to study dance.” He started Protein with a friend because he wanted to find an alternative to serious contemporary dance. “I wanted to create work that people could connect with and recognise. To scratch the surface of reality. To look for absurdity, for everyday humour. Lighter social commentary: this was our intention from the start.”

(LOL by U.K.-based Dance Theatre, Protein, inaugurated the sixth edition of the Poetry with Prakriti Festival. The performance piece is touring India in partnership with The British Council.)

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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