Trinity Laban – Fostering a Dance Community

Laban Studio. Photo by Jim Stephenson

The Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance is well known for nurturing and producing phenomenal dance artists. So it may come as a surprise that Trinity Laban maintains such a welcoming environment towards everyday dance enthusiasts and future dance professionals alike.

On the average Saturday, more than 1,000 students take class. The Laban Building, named for European choreographer Rudolf Laban, carries on a legacy of inclusivity and fostering community.

Laban building. Photo by Peter Smith.
Laban building. Photo by Peter Smith.

Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron designed the Laban Building after they won the project in a 1997 design competition. (You may recognize their “Bird’s Nest” design from the 2008 Olympics, hosted by China.) Their plan met the physical requirements of the future dance building; the architects were also able to incorporate elements of Laban’s philosophy into the design.

Laban building. Photo by Peter Smith.
Laban building. Photo by Peter Smith.

Tributes to Rudolf Laban’s study of dance and his method of dance notation, known as Labanotation or Kinetography Laban, are sprinkled throughout the building. For example, flow is physicalized in a wavering barre alongside the hallway and staircases wind in a spiral. And although I did not spot an icosahedron on my first tour of the Laban Building, I would not be surprised if the shape was referenced somewhere!

While traversing through the Laban Building, one becomes aware of the body moving through space as the ceilings shift and spaces morph into passageways and studios. Not only is the architectural shape interesting, the bright magenta, lime and turquoise walls also serve to stimulate the mind.

Laban studio dancer. Photo by Mark Whitfield
Laban studio. Photo by Mark Whitfield

The Trinity Laban space was purposefully built for dance and contains 12 studios. Heated and sprung Harlequin floors serve to prevent injury. Some studios encourage dancers to trust their inner selves and connect with other dancers as they rehearse without mirrors. Studios used for ballet class do have full-length mirrors so that dancers may check their alignment. Some rehearsal spaces also double as informal performance spaces, which allows dancers to show their work in a more intimate environment.

Laban building. Photo by Peter Smith.
Laban building. Photo by Peter Smith.

In addition to informal performance spaces, the Laban Building also houses the 300-seat Laban Theatre, set in the middle of the premises. Regular showings at the Laban Theatre give students a chance to admire the live performance art form at a discounted price, making this essential learning element more accessible. However, all visitors are welcome to attend performances.

Laban Theatre. Photo by Peter Smith.
Laban Theatre. Photo by Peter Smith.

Performer James Pett began his dance training at Trinity Laban. He credits the programme for “providing great training in channelling your own creativity.” After training, Pett was invited to join Company Wayne McGregor, and he spent four years performing on iconic stages, including the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and Palais Garnier in Paris.

However, Pett felt especially honoured to return back to his dance home and to perform ‘Autobiography‘ professionally at the Laban Theatre. He shares, “Trinity Laban is my home, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the amazing teachers that prepared me for the professional world of dance.”

Not only is the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance an extraordinary higher-education arts institution, the Laban Building and theatre are special spaces.

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