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TooMortal

Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, UK
Commissioned for the Cultural Olympiad, accompanying the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Choreography: Shobana Jeyasingh

Light design: Yaron Abulafia

Costume design: Ursula Bombshell

Sound artist: Cassiel

Photos by © Yaron Abulafia


World premiere at The Venice Dance Biennale, St George’s Anglican Church, Venice, Italy - June 2012


Site-based performances

TooMortal is a beautiful and mesmerising work strikingly set within historic churches. Jeyasingh’s choreography thrives on the restricted space of the pews. Her six female dancers will follow the strict, regular lines of the seating, or push against it. They arch over the high wooden barriers in extravagant, swooning backbends, dangling into the aisles. The dancing is full of swooping curves and muscular abandon.

 

As Jeyasingh works around the wooden benches, finding ways to vary the movement, the dancing becomes vividly evocative. There’s sea imagery as the dancers bob in and out of sight, but it’s the sea inside that the piece is after.

 

Light is iconic in the context of Christianity and perhaps in this production it becomes symbolically elevated when situating the performance inside a Church. Atmospheric light and thin mist that slightly blurs the view, added a sense of ‘theatricality’, cinematic quality. Instead of blocking windows and struggling with daylight, the finest mist was brought in and made daylight seem solid, architectonic, part of the look of the performance. Moreover, due to unexpected weather changes, the effect of daylight vs. artificial light was interesting and surprising, making each performance singular and different visual experience.

 

We are voyeurs witnessing a very intimate sequence of scenes, performed exceptionally smoothly by Jeyasingh’s deliberately passionless sirens. Are the ladies charting a journey from cradle to grave? Or cast a drift on a wooden sea? The piece preaches no message, but is powerfully suggestive of submerged stories and sentiments, of what is below the surface – indeed, below the waist. What you make of these images – how you fathom these seas – depends on how they reverberate with your views and feelings on the church, on women, on life and afterlife, but they have a forceful undertow.