Review: Shobana Jeyasingh Dance - Too Mortal - St Pancras Church
Reviewed: 12 July
There’s a crowd in the entrance to St. Pancras Church – and they’re not just sheltering from another of those sudden, unrestrained downpours we’ve come to expect this summer. They’ve gathered for day two of a three day run for Shobana Jeyasingh’s Too Mortal, a new work created by the choreographer for historic churches.
Inside, dry ice did served to provide an appropriate atmosphere of dusty incense. Led to the front and ushered onto a platform, the audience stood arranged like a choir in front of the altar. It was a position that gave us a unique perspective on the space; removed from the congregational area, the church seemed all the more significantly empty, both lofty and intimate, as we gazed back towards the entrance.
The peace was shattered by the sudden appearance of six dancers; bursting out of individual pews and thrown backwards into arched positions over the edges separating them, holding themselves motionless, other than the rise and fall of their breath. Bathed in a simple shadowy light that enhanced the daylight streaming in, it was a stunning introduction. What followed was a series of beautiful emergings and submergings that alternated between frenzied whirling and quiet stillness, activity and contemplation.Jeyasingh has certainly responded to the space; not St. Pancras specifically, but rather to the architecture, history and spirituality of all churches. It’s universal, but with a hefty dose of a ambiguity; despite its many obvious connotations the work still manages to be delightfully surprising. There’s a hint of Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker’s Rosas Danst Rosas; strong feminine presences, flowing hair, sharp intakes of breath and a balance between fluid and sharply rhythmical gesture. The latter brought an inflection of the Bharatanatyam technique that has grounded Jeyasingh’s work from the early days of her company.
Those pews cleverly contain and edit what we see of the dancers’ bodies. Sometimes they seemed like vessels, then tombs that sheltered and imprisoned in equal measure. Moving across in flat 2D, or rising and falling in and out of view we never quite saw all of a body at once. Rather, they formed a sea of blocks and ripples, particularly visible across the larger group of four dancers; they darted up into view, arms plunging down the outside as if diving into water. In a beautiful flurry of arching lines and curves that sequenced or came together, the dancers slid and sat in their red dresses, leaned as if musing, gliding as though on wheels. Towards the end duets appeared, two bodies brought together in sculptural form, all angled arms and heads.
Cassiel’s sound score almost overdid things – did we really need all those choral remixes reverberating around the space? Although the score was undeniably beautiful, the location and the movement were easily powerful enough on their own. There was something elemental and magnetic about it all, a meshing of ideas; imprisonment and abandon, violent struggle and peaceful contemplation, all flashing before us in constant waves. Never straying too far from the abstract and architectural, the performers were passionately, perfectly in sync.
Continues Sat 14 July at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm & 4pm
Free event but reservation essential
Misa Brzezicki is a freelance dance artist, based in London.
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