This is the second collaboration between the composer Michael Nyman and the choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh.
This is the second collaboration between the composer Michael Nyman and the choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh. For Configurations (1988), Nyman wrote a string quartet. In Flicker, he has worked with the electronic composer Jürgen Simpson on a layered score of bleeps, hums and guitar-lines. It sounds like a different Nyman, without his usual insistent patterns. But it doesn't look like a different Jeyasingh: for the dancers, it's business as usual.
Jeyasingh draws on the Indian classical style bharata natyam, reworking it as contemporary dance. Her dancers stamp turned-out feet, fan their fingers into classical shapes, and then twist wrists or ankles into jagged forms. The dancers are clear and bold, and make the most of the contrasts. Some of those broken poses turn into bright new steps; others just look interrupted.
Apart from Nyman's score, Flicker is a digital dance, performed against an electronic backdrop by the design group Digit. Green lights flash on a black screen, like an old computer monitor on the blink. The jagged lines look like a seismograph printout, but they join up to make shadow dancers. Eventually they become virtual figures, reflections of the dancing on stage.
The score layers live and recorded music. James Woodrow plays scribbling lines of electric guitar, cutting across the hums and bleeps. There are no loops, few obvious patterns. At one point, the blips settle into something like a harpsichord sound, before wandering back into electric noise. The dancers, meanwhile, rock back and forth between steps.
As Flicker opens, Guy Hoare's lighting stripes the stage with lines of green. The dancers step, in unison, between two stripes, jump back, start again. They bend from the hips and bounce up again, a fierce dip and recovery. As the dance continues, they spread out over the stage, moving up diagonal stripes of light. Solos turn into group dances, and back again. In one trio, only two dancers move: there's always someone standing still, watching.
Jeyasingh's choreography is highly organised, but that doesn't always make it coherent. This bill includes the revised Transtep, with its version of Monteverdi's Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. Here, the dancers act out the story without helping us to follow the plot. They follow the music closely, but ignore the contrasts between voices, the confrontations built into the score. There's plenty of detail, but the larger logic is missing.
This can also happen in Jeyasingh's pure dance sequences. Flicker is much tauter than Transtep, its dances less inclined to meander. Steps cut quickly between classical and modern, snapping into high kicks or crisp changes of direction. Even so, these sequences don't pull together. There are patterns and repeats, but no conclusions.
Nyman's score ends with a burst of atmospheric sound. The chords darken, with greater volume and tension. If this were film music - and it could be - I'd be expecting an explosion, a burst of activity. Jeyasingh's dancers don't seem to feel it that way; they just go on moving until the blackout.Reuse content