7 episodes

2019 marks the 30th anniversary of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance. To celebrate we’re producing a series of podcasts that explore Shobana’s work, her pioneering vision and her contribution to the UK’s cultural landscape.

Join Guardian Dance critic Sanjoy Roy as he interviews Shobana, company dancers and collaborators to examine the themes and inspiration behind her adventurous work. We delve into the archives to find out how Shobana’s choreography did (or didn’t) fit into the dance scene 30 years ago, her research and creative processes, dance styles and the alternative path she has taken from the outset of her career.

Shobana Jeyasingh Dance's podcast Shobana Jeyasingh Dance

    • Arts
    • 4.8 • 10 Ratings

2019 marks the 30th anniversary of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance. To celebrate we’re producing a series of podcasts that explore Shobana’s work, her pioneering vision and her contribution to the UK’s cultural landscape.

Join Guardian Dance critic Sanjoy Roy as he interviews Shobana, company dancers and collaborators to examine the themes and inspiration behind her adventurous work. We delve into the archives to find out how Shobana’s choreography did (or didn’t) fit into the dance scene 30 years ago, her research and creative processes, dance styles and the alternative path she has taken from the outset of her career.

    The Dancer's Cut

    The Dancer's Cut

    Movement is at the heart of choreography – but how is it generated and how does it become choreography? Shobana and six company dancers talk about what happens inside the dance studio.
     
    In previous episodes of our Surface Tension podcast, we’ve looked at choreography from a range of different viewpoints: the themes of science and science fiction, the considerations required for site-specific works, and the creative inputs of writers, musicians, film-makers and designers - as well as virologists and clergymen!
     
    But there’s one vital group of people we haven’t spoken to in detail: the dancers themselves. So in this episode, we open a window onto the rehearsal studio as Guardian dance writer Sanjoy Roy finds out about the interactions between dancers and choreographer, and between dance and choreography.
     
    Shobana Jeyasingh puts the moment in context: when she first meets the dancers in the studio, much “choreographic” work has already been begun outside it – research undertaken, ideas and themes sketched out, collaborators commissioned.
     
    Listen to Shobana and six experienced dancers – José Agudo, Carmine de Amicis, Avatâra Ayuso, Catarina Carvalho, Estela Merlos and Sooraj Subramaniam – talking about what happens inside the studio. We find out about the dancers’ very varied technical training – ballroom, jazz, folk and flamenco as well as ballet, contemporary and bharatanatyam – and about how they work together so that their many different voices contribute to the same artistic conversation.
     
    The dancers talk about the depth of research and the scope of their contribution, both physically and mentally, and what it’s like to be part of a picture on the inside while Shobana has the view from the outside.
     
    Shobana talks about creating frames for tasks, why it’s ok to lose rungs from the ladder, and why she feels like a film director. And have you ever wondered what the difference is between dance and choreography? She pinpoints one crucial distinction between a dance sequence and a choreographic phrase.
     
    Of course, what goes into the studio eventually comes out of it. How does it feel for the dancers and for the choreographer when their closed creation finally becomes a public performance?

    • 34 min
    Staging Schiele: Bonus Episode

    Staging Schiele: Bonus Episode

    In this bonus episode listen to the Q&A with Sanjoy Roy and Shobana Jeyasingh on stage at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, after the London premiere of Staging Schiele on 4 November 2019. This accompanies Episode 5 of Surface Tension which charts the process of creation, rehearsal and touring of Staging Schiele.

    • 16 min
    Staging Schiele

    Staging Schiele

    Accompanying the full-length online broadcast of Shobana Jeyasingh's latest work, Staging Schiele (available until the end of 2019), Episode 5 of Surface Tension charts the process of creation, rehearsal and touring of the piece. Presenter Sanjoy Roy introduces the latest production which the company have just toured, Staging Schiele and talks to Shobana about the origins of the piece and how her interest in the life, work and death of Egon Schiele was sparked. Conversation covers the rehearsal process, what parts of Schiele’s life and paintings were reflected in the choreography and themes of the male artist and the female nude.
    Shobana describes the sections of the piece: Mirror / Doppleganger / In the Studio (later called Radical Nude / Censor / Relationships (Schiele with his mother, wife and muse).
    We jump back to May 2019, when Shobana and company were in the research and development phase for the piece. We talk to company dancer Dane Hurst, who took on the Schiele role, about the research period and using imagery to inspire movement.
    Fast forward to September 2019, when Sanjoy caught up with Shobana whilst she was making changes to the storyline. Then we hear from composer Orlando Gough, where he talks about the notion of anxiety and how to incorporate it within the music. The music is almost all sung, whispered and shouted by one male voice, which we assume to be Schiele.
    Next we chat to menswear designers COTTWEILER: Ben Cottrell and Matthew Dainty who talk about getting a feel for Shobana’s take on Staging Schiele, research processes and meeting the dancers before starting to design the costumes. They take into consideration how possible fabrics react to the lighting, stage and set in a very detailed way.
    Ben Cullen Williams, visual artist, describes his approach to designing the set, a location for the piece. He designed the steel frame structure to be collapsable and flatpack so it could fit in a van. The set provided a structure for the piece but also the psychological state of Schiele which the dancers existed in. The lighting was designed to give a sense of disturbance, unease and anxiety with constant flickering and twitching in and around the set.
    November 2019, in the foyer of Queen Elizabeth Hall after the London Premiere of Staging Schiele Sanjoy interviews Orlando Gough about the ‘most intense dance piece I’ve ever seen’.
    Dancers Catarina Carvalho, Dane Hurst and Estela Merlos talk about performing across the duration of the tour, injuries, how they supported each other and how the tone of the piece matured and changed.
    Finally we talk to Shobana after the performance, about the audience reaction and energy in the auditorium, the challenges of putting on a show, the creative team achieved, and the ’synergy of vision amongst the creative collaborators’ on Staging Schiele.

    • 42 min
    Science and Science Fiction

    Science and Science Fiction

    ‘Watch a dance work as if it were a science fiction film’
    Episode 4 of Surface Tension investigates the impact of science and science fiction on Shobana’s work. Presenter Sanjoy Roy asks what are the connections between science and dance and sci-fi and Shobana’s choreography?
    Shobana talks about her interest in science fiction, and how she became re-acquainted with science as an adult (after not paying attention in school!). Bladerunner, The Matrix and Terminator are among Shobana’s favourite films and have all inspired her work in some way.
    Shobana and Sanjoy look back at Phantasmaton (2002) and the influence of the book ‘The Location of Culture’ by Homi Bhabha and how it introduced the difference between the concepts of ‘fusion’ and ‘hybridity’. Dancers created their own versions of hybrids as part of the rehearsal process.
    The moment of the dancer glancing in bharatanatyam was a key motif for Shobana and filmmaker Pete Gomes and they played with this figure to provide the background and set for Phantasmaton.
    Conversation moves on to the ‘uncanny valley’ concept and robotics, which are central to Trespass (2015) where Shobana choreographed a duet with a robotic ‘entity’ and a human dancer.
    We hear from Rauiri Glynn, Director of from the Interactive Architecture Lab at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL about the collaboration with Shobana on Trespass and how this process diverged from the normal method of building a robot, allowing them to introduce a whole series of behaviours for a dancer to interact with.
    In Flagrante (2014), was commissioned by Marina Wallace at Central St Martins for an exhibition on cell division - mitosis - with the aim of communicating how cells divided to the general public, with dance as the mediator for that process.
    Marina talks about bringing together the scientific and choreographic worlds and using dance as an intermediary to explain what scientists do in the lab.
    For this project, Shobana was partnered with Dr Kim Nasmyth, Professor of Biochemistry at Oxford, who joins us down the line from France and talks about how they communicated about the process of mitosis and how to present it in a dramatic and watchable way. The end result was the film In Flagrante.
    Lastly, we move on to Contagion from 2018, which took the Spanish Flu virus as its source material, which killed more people than in the entire four years of the WWI.
    Virologist and leading specialist in influenza Dr John Oxford talks about the flu and its global impact. He asked Shobana ‘How are you going to choreograph dance around the flu?’

    • 45 min
    Counterpoint, Too Mortal & Outlander

    Counterpoint, Too Mortal & Outlander

    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.

    • 35 min
    Faultline

    Faultline

    Episode 2 of Surface Tension turns the spotlight on Faultline from 2007.

    Presenter Sanjoy Roy recollects his memories of the piece, the style, aesthetic and evocative atmosphere. The anxiety, the coolness and the swagger of what it meant to be young, British and Asian at that time.

    A shift in cultural climate after the 2005 bombings - when young Asian men became suspicious in society.

    He speaks to Shobana Jeyasingh about the triggers that shaped the piece; the 2005 London bombings, subsequent raids and the hysterical unease that was pervasive in every day life. All of which contributed to the look and feel of Faultline.

    Shobana talks about the various creative collaborations that all knitted together in the final piece; the film which acted as the prologue, the initial introduction of the dancers, characters and music - in particular the voice of Patricia Rozario. Plus the direct influence of Gautam Malkani’s book Londonstani, published in 2006, which had a profound effect on the movement generation phase of Faultline.

    We talk to author Gautam Malkani about his own experience of growing up in London, the culture adopted by Asian rude-boy gangs. He talks about the hyper masculinity, language, posing and posturing that characterised his book and reads some excerpts.

    We hear Gautam’s reaction on hearing that his book had inspired a dance piece and how Shobana was able to encapsulate the essence and themes in a very direct choreography of raw aggression.

    We speak to Robin Rimbaud (Scanner) who composed the score for Faultline. Shobana wanted him to create a soundscape that produced a dark, charged and intense atmosphere; a sonic picture of London in 2007 using electronic music.

    Composer Errollyn Wallen joins the conversation to talk about how she collaborated and shaped the music to compliment Robin’s soundscape.

    In the final section we interview artist and filmmaker Pete Gomes who produced the visuals and the approach he agreed on with Shobana.
    Series Producer, Melissa FitzGerald @Melissafitzg
     
    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.
    Gautam Malkani @GautamMalkani
    Robin Rimbaud (Scanner) @robinrimbaud
    Errollyn Wallen @ErrollynWallen 

    Pete Gomes @gomespete
    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.

    • 39 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
10 Ratings

10 Ratings

meppyldn ,

Excellent insight

Such a great podcast, excellent interview, can’t wait to hear more.

Hollymorris28 ,

Configurations

This is a brilliant first episode in the Shobana Jeyasingh Dance series. It’s a fascinating listen giving you an insight into how Shobana’s early work ‘Configurations’ was made in collaboration with Michael Nyman. Would really recommend!

Lisekit ,

Absorbing podcast!

Really good listen - fascinating insight into both the music and dance composition. Sanjoy is a very engaging host, and it’s always great to hear artists talking about their process. Looking forward to the next one!

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