DANCE / Map of the world: Judith Mackrell reviews Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company at The Place

WATCHING Shobana Jeyasingh's Configurations straight after the prologue of a traditional solo of Bharatha Natyam dance is like seeing the work of a jeweller expand into powerful, confident sculpture. In the first dance you are dazzled by glittering angles, delicate gestures and concentrated ornamentation; in the second you see movements sketched into broad planes and lines, you see energy travelling through space, you see tough, tensile strength. You also see a group of women who - stripped of the elaborate adornment and sweetly expressive demeanour of their traditional image - look unmistakably like citizens of the late 20th century.

Configurations has been reworked from the 1988 piece that Jeyasingh made to a string quartet by Michael Nyman. In this new version she has lost none of the percussive vigour she first drew from the music's urgent rhythms, nor the peremptory emotional charge. What seems more assertive is the choreography's form. As before, elements of Bharatha Natyam have been elegantly deconstructed so that the dance's basic components stand large, free and clear. Jeyasingh has also rebuilt these sparer moves into bigger dance structures, pitting groups of dancers against each other, composing forceful lines and curves and, above all, exploiting the collective emotional and visceral power of her five dancers. The expressive tension of the movement stalks the music note for note, both climaxing in an ending that is demonic in its ferocity.

Intense as Nyman's music is, it would be hard for the dance not to get swept along in its wake. In Making of Maps, though, Jeyasingh and her movement stand alone. Inspired by medieval Mappa Mundi, the piece is an attempt to 'assimilate' Jeyasingh's own complex times. What is overridingly clear in it is the sense of a mind and an aesthetic located intriguingly between west and east, present and past.

The score is a mix of classical Indian music, composed by R A Ramamani, and Alistair MacDonald's layered electronic tape of speech and urban bustle. As pure movement, the dance is pushed further than ever from its origins. A familiar Bharatha Natyam lunge launches into a powerful role; classical gestures and footwork are performed so attenuatedly as to be hardly recognisable. Jeyasingh plays so daringly with extremes of speed, and weaves her dancers into such complex almost random patterns, that at moments we seem adrift in a strange and cerebral dance fantasy.

Yet the choreography works a compelling alchemy in that you also see the dancers mapping out a kind of spiritual geography. A passage of tough, angled movements, set to abrasive electronic sounds, conjures vividly the image of rocky headlands and emotional crisis; a section where the dancers drift gently past in a rolling canon makes you think of benign waves and reflective calm. It's an extraordinary, ambitious work not least for the fact that in it Jeyasingh transcends the cultural differences to create a strong and independent dance language of her own.

Tours until 30 Jan 1992 (for details: 071-383 3252).

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific