Protein was founded in 1997 by Italian Luca Silvestrini and Swiss Bettina Strickler, who attended the Laban Centre (now Trinity Laban) together.
Beginning with their bilingual duet Duel in 1998, they created a series of high energy, accessible professional stage works, each one relishing a different aspect of contemporary life: confessional television (Portrait with Group and Duck, 1998), psychoanalysis (On the Couch, 2000), booze culture (Publife, 2002) and social Darwinism (The Banquet, 2003).
Continuing as sole Artistic Director after Bettina’s departure from the company in 2004, Luca tackled consumerism (Big Sale, 2005) and obsession with body image (B for Body, 2006), which won him the Audience Vote in The Place Prize, 2006, and led to the full-length Dear Body in 2008.
Protein has toured throughout the United Kingdom and internationally, with performances in Italy, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, France, Germany, Croatia, Malta, Czech Republic, Holland, Canada, China, Palestine and the USA.
LOL (lots of love), 2010, inspired by the culture of online relationships, was part of the British Council Showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 and subsequently toured to the Middle East, Croatia, Russia, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Colombia, Thailand and India. It was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Dance at the UK Theatre Awards 2011, and Best Modern Choreography and Outstanding Female Performance (Modern) at the National Dance Awards 2011, when Protein was awarded Best Independent Company.
Border Tales, 2013, explored the experiences of migrants and multicultural living in the UK. Featuring a live score and performed in-the-round, the show was performed for the longest run The Place has ever presented – three weeks – and two of those weeks sold out. In 2016, the show appeared on BBC Worldwide as part of an ‘Identity Day’, broadcast to millions around the world. In 2017, the new front-end version of the show went on to Edinburgh Fringe for three sold out weeks, leading to further international touring to Italy, Switzerland, Palestine, Romania and South Korea in 2018-19.
May Contain Food, 2015, examined our complex relationship with food. A collaboration with composer Orlando Gough, the audience sits at tables while being waited on by the performers, bringing the show ever closer to those watching and even including them in it. In 2016, the show was selected and adapted to be a part of the Rural Touring Dance Initiative, a pioneering project designed to stimulate the making of dance for rural areas. May Contain Food May Contain You, the ‘rural version’ has toured extensively since 2016. In 2018, Protein and Marche Teatro, Ancona, Italy produced FOOD, the Italian version of the show which toured Italy through 2019.
Protein’s The Little Prince, based on the world-famous philosophical novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, premiered at DanceEast in Ipswich in 2018 before embarking on an extensive international tour in 2019 which included two sold-out shows at the International Dance Center Theater in Shanghai and a Christmas run at The Place, London. In 2020, the show was specially adapted for smaller venues as part of the Rural Touring Dance Initiative and toured to 12 venues in England and Wales.
As well as creating stage works, Luca has also made several outdoor, site-sensitive works. Windows in Progress, 2014, staged in shop windows in Covent Garden and at the Royal Opera House was commissioned by the Royal Opera House for Deloitte Ignite 2014 and has been seen by over 7,000 over 19 performances. (In)visible Dancing, 2010, is an emergent, participatory performance combining the idea of a ‘flashmob’ with a show that is performed and developed over a period of one or two weeks, and has been presented to major festivals in the UK, Ireland, Italy and been seen by over 159,000 people. (In)visible Dancing is performed every summer in a new location and in 2019 had its 15th edition in front of over 19,000 people in Woolwich, Protein’s home in South-East London.