To mark Shobana Jeyasingh Dance’s 30th anniversary the company is producing Surface Tension, a series of podcasts presented by dance critic Sanjoy Roy and produced by Melissa FitzGerald. Episode one: Configurations: System, meet system describes when Shobana Jeyasingh met Michael Nyman. Further episodes in the series will be released throughout 2019 discussing Jeyasingh’s choreographic journey, her pioneering vision, and her game-changing contribution to the UK’s cultural landscape.
In February 1989 in London, Shobana Jeyasingh presented her seminal ensemble dance work, Configurations. She commissioned iconic composer Michael Nyman to create the score and the resulting work was a cultural hybrid of the time. Their collaboration was the subject of a documentary by Channel 4. Nyman says the score, which came to be known as String Quartet no 2, is the best string quartet he has ever written.
In episode one of Surface Tension, Jeyasingh and Nyman give their respective takes on how the Configurations collaboration came about, their memories of the research, the process, and the working relationship between choreographer and composer.
Between them they talk about overheard conversations at Riverside Studios; composing with one hand behind your back; the liberating restriction of representing the rhythmic patterns of classical South Asian dance through a contemporary western score; what a bad composer might do with the same brief; the string quartet as the oldest, unchanging musical ensemble in the Western world; listening to the final score played on a piano down a phone line from France; the wonderful surprises to be found in the piece.
In the rest of the series, Roy will to continue to examine the themes and inspirations behind Jeyasingh’s work through interviews with her, company dancers and collaborators, and leading figures from the arts world. He delves into the company archives to find out about her choreography did (or didn’t) fit into the dance scene 30 years ago and the alternative path she has taken throughout her career.