Jul 15, 2019
Episode 3 of Surface Tension focusses on three site-specific works: Counterpoint (performed in the courtyard at Somerset House), TooMortal (presented in various churches) and Outlander (a monastery in Venice).
Our presenter Sanjoy Roy opens by asking Shobana about the practical and artistic questions of making work for different spaces outside of theatres. We speak to Jenny Waldman who commissioned Counterpoint in 2010 to be performed in and amongst the fountains in the courtyard of Somerset House. 20 female dancers were specifically chosen to dance in the 55 fountains of this vast and classical space.
TooMortal was commissioned by Dance Umbrella and the Venice Biennale to be performed in churches. Shobana and Father Allan Scott, former Rector of St Mary's Old Church in London, describe the incredible difficulty in finding a church in Venice that would allow dance to take place. Too strange? Not suitable? Women dancing in the pews? In the end St George's Anglican Church in Venice agreed to take piece... We talk to Betsy Gregory, former Artistic Director for Dance Umbrella, about the excitement around programming for non-theatre spaces and putting dance in unusual locations.
In the third section, we move on to Outlander from 2016, made for a monastery in Venice, which used to house the painting 'Wedding at Cana' by Paolo Veronese. Sander Loonen joins the discussion via skype to talk about his role as production manager and the staging for this very bespoke piece.
Shobana recounts that the initial inspiration came from Veronese’s exuberant masterpiece which features a contemporary, multicultural wedding feast. Performed by three company dancers, it is a closely observed series of solos that shift between reflection and speed. The work contrasts Shobana’s choreography with the classical beauty of Venice. Each dancer becomes a character who brings their own mixture of strangeness and familiarity to Veronese’s celebrations on a specially designed catwalk lit by Sander Loonen and with a baroque inspired soundscape by Scanner.
Shobana Jeyasingh @SJeyasinghDance
Born in Chennai, India, she currently lives and works in London. Her acclaimed, highly individual work has been seen in all kinds of venues, including theatres, outdoor and indoor sites and on film. Her work taps into both the intellectual and physical power of dance, and is rooted in her particular vision of culture and society.
Shobana’s work is often enriched by specially commissioned music composed by an array of contemporary composers — from Michael Nyman to beat-boxer Shlomo. Her eclectic band of creative collaborators have included filmmakers, mathematicians, digital designers, writers, animators, as well as lighting and set designers.
Sanjoy Roy @sanj0yr0y
Sanjoy Roy (London, UK) has been writing on dance for the Guardian since 2002, and has contributed to many other publications including the New York Times, New Statesman, Dance Gazette and Dancing Times, and is London correspondent for Dance International magazine. He is currently also the editor of Springback Magazine, a Europe-wide online dance journal launched in 2018. First writing about Shobana in 1997, he has since written reviews and articles on her work, as well as interviews, programme notes and education materials for her company.