Shobana Jeyasingh is innovative in the use of space in her creations. She fashions a new dialogue in her choreographies between the dancers and the space around them. “TooMortal”-her recent production which posits questions on human mortality, sits very well within the sombre confines of historic churches. TooMortal premiered in St George’s Anglican Church, Venice in June 2012 and is being presented by Dance Umbrella within the UK as a part of the London 2012 festival.
The St. Mary’s Old Church at Stoke Newington provide the extraordinarily eerie setting for a piece like TooMortal. With its history and simple interiors of unadorned walls it is the perfect setting for this piece. The use of a wash of grey cross lights make the setting more mystical. The music starts low and then churns to a higher sound that trickles through, reaching the soul. The music builds up as sacral chants summoning a deeper spiritual urge.
While the church setting adds to the experience and is an integral part of the theme, the dancers create patterns of movements engaging in a dialogue with the church building. The movements create ripples and make the bricks come alive producing an almost unearthly choreographic experience. The high wooden pews where the congregation sits has been used throughout the dance piece in a way as though they are the resting place of the priests. From this abode they arise in frenzied prayer, gradually increasing in momentum to reach a crescendo, a molecular agitation emanating energy. This energy reaches out to the audience to captivate them and draw them in a collective spiritual experience. There are moments in the choreography when the dancers sink, completely disappearing from the audience’s view and then rise again from within the pews. This play of quick appearance and disappearance that is almost impossible to achieve on stage, is the magical touch that Jeyasingh has lent to her piece.The choreography with only the top half of the dancers visible to the audience creates a striking imagery of levitating hermits floating in space.
Through TooMortal Jeyasingh reminds her audience the power of the old churches and that history is intertwined with their existence. They are still, perhaps now a passive guiding force in the lives of mortals, allowing the space from where we can question our existence and our ultimate demise.