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Shobana Jeyasingh
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Shobana Jeyasingh    

TooMortal (2012)

A beautiful and mesmerising work strikingly set within historic churches.

Dancing within the pews, six women dressed in flame red weave a story that moves between power and quiet reflection. Are they charting a journey from cradle to grave? Or cast adrift on a wooden sea?

The soundtrack by sound artist Cassiel remixes Tenebrae Responsories by James MacMillan, creating an atmosphere of calm solemnity infused with tense, sometimes ominous, flavours.


Configurations (2012)

The original Configurations that was commissioned by The Place, London was a development of an earlier solo work Miniatures for which the music was commissioned by Michael Nyman in 1988. It is a dance work that has shifted and changed, reflecting Jeyasingh's own growth as a choreographer. In this 're-imagining' of the dance work in 2012, Jeyasingh has not sought to re-stage or revive earlier versions but rather bring to it her affection for the music as well as the potential for adventure that Bharata Natyam has always instilled in her.

Configurations was presented in 2012 as part of Classic Cut – an intriguing double-bill featuring revisiting the past and taking a bold step into the new.


Dev Kahan Hai? / Where is Dev? (2012)

An atmospheric work exploring desire and anticipation in Indian classical dance and cinema.

The heroine who waits in anticipation is an enduring archetype of Indian classical dance and painting. The heroine, her friend and the absent lover is a much used conventional structure to create mood and develop the dance narrative. The imagery that is used to create such a scene has been the inspiration and starting point for this dance work.

The focus that the classical dance places on the distance between the object of desire and the desiring person has a potency and artistic tension that a satisfying resolution might be hard pressed to match. The withholding of fulfilment and the idealisation of desire in its own right has been exploited in countless Indian films where the yearning distance between lovers is rarely resolved with an on-screen kiss. Indeed the extreme theatricality of classical Indian dance has left its mark of Indian cinema – the early screen stars were often also stars of the classical dance world.

Desire and the anxiety that accompanies anticipation, however, are not the monopoly of classical convention only. They propel us more than ever now – although we seldom articulate the object of our desires with as much grace or singularity as did the heroine of old. On the other hand the classical heroine might have relished the multiple outlets for both desire and the desired that we enjoy now.

Dev Kahan Hai? / Where is Dev? was presented in 2012 as part of Classic Cut – an intriguing double-bill featuring revisiting the past and taking a bold step into the new.


Counterpoint (2010)

Taking her cue from the stunning neo-classical courtyard and the dynamically designed fountains at Somerset House, Shobana Jeyasingh weaves a compelling and contrasting story for London in the 21st century.

Jeyasingh's dramatic choreography, together with the unique talents of designer Ursula Bombshell and sound artist Cassiel, make for an intense and water-inspired dance performance.

The courtyard of Somerset House, in common with all grand historical buildings, has many stories to tell. Its symmetry and formal lines that have stood unchanged for centuries, the patterns of its fountains, and the vast and intense whiteness of the space that hits you as you walk in on a hot summers day – these are some of its stories. The dance in Counterpoint plays with these elements and is shaped by them. It also offers contrasting moments of intimacy and rapidly changing speeds, textures and dynamics.

In the month leading up to these performances, the dancers participated in an artist-led mentoring and training programme. They questioned their own practice, guided by other more experienced artists, and acquired new skills. The project also drew in community groups around West London to extend the reach of the work and bring new audiences to dance.


Bruise Blood (2009)

Steve Reich's work Come Out uses the actual words spoken by a young black Harlem man in the sixties who was wrongly arrested and had to let his bruise blood come out to show that he had been assaulted by the police. His bruises on his body were the only evidence he had.

Although Reich himself does not dwell on the documentary but sharply moves to the abstract, Jeyasingh connected to the evidential nature of the dancing body which shows its tangled history through the machinery of the human body.


Just Add Water? (2009)

Our current love affair with all things culinary gets a unique spin from Jeyasingh in her new full-length dance piece.

In a world where differences between people can cause friction, Just Add Water? Reminds us that cross-cultural eating is one of the true success stories of our time.

Six exceptional dancers share their hard-won memories of home cooking in a shifting world to create a beguiling contemporary dance work that includes a score by Orlando Gough and text by performer and writer Rani Moorthy.


Faultline (2007)

The anxiety that informed the debate about Asian youth in the aftermath of the London bombings seemed all consuming. This anxiety, for Jeyasingh, found its perfect echo in a fragment of music (featuring a much manipulated soprano voice) that sound artist Scanner had created.

The novel "Londonstani" by Gautham Malkhani was another source of inspiration . While it dealt with a slice of British Asian life in Southall, it was the mixture of linguistic codes (texting, slang, Punjabi, etc) which the author used to create the voice of his main character that struck a chord in the rehearsal studio.

The artistic teal included Acanner Errollyn Wallen, Pete Gomes , Lucy Carter and Ursula Bombshell.

Photo: Chris Nash, Dancers: Mandeep Raikhy & Devaraj Thimmaiah

Exit No Exit (2005)

A girl sits and waits at a table as the audience enters. Her interaction with the space and the ensemble (six ‘regular’ dancers) is obviously problematic. While the dancers go though the classic exits and entrances that performers usually deploy in their engagement with theatre space, the lone woman seems to have different expectations of the space in use. She seems to want to reveal the stage for the sham and pretence that it is. Michael Nyman composed music for Exit No Exit. The designers are Lucy Carter and Nicola Bruce. Exit No Exit premiered at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, London, 2005.

Photo: Chris Nash, Dancer: Kamala Devam

Photo: Chris Nash, Dancers: Navala Chaudhari, Rathimalar Govindarajoo & Saju Hari

Flicker (2004)

The essential instability of our visual perception is the theme of Flicker (2004). When the screen in front of us flickers we usually read it as a malfunction. However it is also a salutary reminder of the machinery and mechanism that conditions how we see and what we see. Flicker uses a specially commissioned motion capture program by the Hoxton based company Digit to film the dancers live and project digitized versions of this on to the back screen. The spectator is forced to confront two versions of the same event. Michael Nyman was commissioned to compose a new score for Flicker. The designers are Guy Hoare and Ursula Bombshell. Flicker premiered at The Northern School of Music, Manchester.

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