Review of Jeyasingh at QEH – Julia Pascal

Shobana Jeyasingh moves on to new territory with Strange Blooms at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  Here she collaborates with composer Gabriel Prokofiev lighting by Guy Hoare, costumes by Fabrice Serafino and set design by Bronia Housman.  I have never seen Jeyasingh work within the vocabulary of contemporary dance.  She is the trailblazer who has placed Bharatanatyam into the world of modern theatre.  We know her most recently for extraordinary collaboration with Michael Nyman, most particularly her exciting, geometric Configurations which starts this double bill.

Whereas Configurations explores dancers working through diagonal planes and the beating bare feet of traditional Bharatanatyam  within a spare western aesthetic where the live musicians are a string orchestra rather than traditional Indian players, Strange Blooms moves away from this world and, by doing so, forces the audience to judge Jeyasingh as a choreographer making work purely within modern European dance. Using spectacular holograms and a large ensemble to explore clashes and shifting relationships between partners Jeyasingh uses a gymnastic, off-centre quasi balletic style which is pleasing and fresh. This stretches her faithful audiences who are now used to her particularly contemporary Bharatanatyam.

The aesthetic is pleasing but the work’s rooting in endless repetition means that there is no sense of progression.  The repetition works in Bharatanatyam  as it always seems to have a cumulative effect whereas Strange Blooms seems to need another artistic impulse to take it to the next level.

Julia Pascal © December 2013.