Laban: London's Best Kept Secret?
Being adventurous in a city the size of London guarantees ample rewards: why not abandon the same old, same old and discover the wonders of the East End?
The RIBA award-winning building is the work of architects Herzog and de Meuron, who are no strangers to prestige projects: they were responsible for turning a disused power station into the world-famous Tate Modern and creating Beijing’s National Stadium, best know perhaps as the Bird’s Nest.
Barely 15 years old, the Laban building looks pristine, both on its glass panelled exterior and in its spacious interior, where the bright pink, green, blue and orange walls and murals are the work of the conceptual artist and painter Michael Craig Martin.
When we visited, our guide was Trinity Laban alumna and now events organiser Sylvia Ferreira. Obviously proud of her work setting – it definitely beats any office we can think of! – she explained the layout had been conceived in such a way that at any point in the building you could see across to other areas, so the connection was never lost.
Laban is heavy with concept, but it wears it lightly…
Speaking of connection, the Laban building is open to visitors and encourages local residents to come in; to while away some time in the downstairs cafe, take ownership of the space, and participate in the mind-boggling array of amateur classes provided by the school.
These classes are already hugely popular and well attended; so, If you are local – and the fast-developing area has thrown up some new and rather enticing apartment blocks – why not give it a try?
Actively engaging with the local community is one of the Faculty’s priorities, and its outreach programmes involve schools and all manner of community organisations.
If, however, you are the contemplative kind, then you may prefer to watch performances in the building’s own swanky 300-seat theatre. There’s often something on, ranging from the very young and experimental, to more established fully professional troupes.
Somewhere in between is Trinity Laban’s own graduate company, Transitions.
Transitions, My Dance Your Touch
When we visited, we caught a top notch performance of Autobiography by Wayne McGregor Dance. McGregor, one of THE choreographers of the moment, is a Professor of Choreography at Trinity Laban.
Long after classes had ended for the day, clusters of students were still in the building as if loathing to drag themselves away, hanging around some of its13 studios.
A few of the younger boys started showing off their prowess at the mere sight of visitors (these are, after all, budding performers, a.k.a show offs…); in another studio a group of slightly older girls sat demurely in a circle, perhaps discussing some of the finer points of their craft.
Laban is an extraordinarily beautiful and welcoming building, where both students and visitors like to linger, and one that deserves to be a lot better known than it is now.
It’s accessible on public transport (Cutty Sark on the DLR), but also has a large carpark.
So, whether your interest is architecture, dance, or simply exploring hitherto more obscure parts of London in search of unsuspected treasures, why not pay Laban a visit? You'll be welcomed with open arms..