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dance umbrella 2002





Introduction to Dance Umbrella 2002

by Val Bourne, Artistic Director

Dance Umbrella starts earlier than usual this year, on 10 September, with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at the Barbican Theatre. Part of this year's BITE season, the two programmes include no less than four UK premieres, plus a world premiere specially commissioned by the Barbican. Immediately following the performances, the company moves to the London Contemporary Dance School at The Place for a week-long residency, our first with a major international company in London. A packed schedule includes not only classes and workshops for students and professionals, but, for members of the public, a study day, presentations, discussions and films each night in the Robin Howard Dance Theatre and the Founders' Studio.

Making its London debut, Compagnie Felix Ruckert will also be in residence for a week working with the 19 local performers who will appear in Ring at the Robin Howard Dance Theatre. For Felix and Carol Brown, who follows him into The Place with Nerve, the seats will be removed, as they will be for the first Jerwood Proms at Sadler's Wells a week later. Support from the Jerwood Charitable Foundation is making it possible for up to 500 people a night to see Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project, the Richard Alston Dance Company with a London premiere, and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's Rosas with the UK premiere of Rain, for just ú5 each. However, seating will be reinstated at the Robin Howard Dance Theatre for programmes of new work from Bedlam, the Charles Linehan Company, Walker Dance and for Mal Pelo, making a welcome return to London after an absence of six years.

The Inbal Pinto Dance Company was enthusiastically received with Wrapped at the Bloomsbury Theatre in 2000 and now returns with the equally delightful Oyster. Back at the Barbican, Deborah Colker brings her company from Brazil to present the European premiere of Casa in the main house whilst Yoshi Oida's powerful production of The Maids, featuring Ismael Ivo and Koffi K˘k˘, can be seen in The Pit.

Unusually, both Siobhan Davies, at the Victoria Miro Gallery, and Shobana Jeyasingh, at Greenwich Borough Hall, are choosing to show new work in a non-theatrical setting. Shobana's presentation is part of the festival's Virtual Incarnations strand, which also highlights developments in new technology at the Barbican, the ICA and the South Bank, where Charleroi Danses/Plan K returns with Metapolis, a collaboration with architect Zaha Hadid. Also at the Queen Elizabeth Hall will be the Akram Khan Company, Ballett Freiburg/Pretty Ugly, presenting The Art of Fugue with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, and Ballet de Lorraine, making its UK debut with a triple bill, featuring works by Merce Cunningham, Karole Armitage, Mathilde Monnier & Jean-Franšois Duroure.

Dance Umbrella is proud to offer you eight weeks celebrating the best of contemporary dance, from the United States, Germany, Israel, Brazil, Spain, Belgium, France and, of course, Britain. Book now and enjoy the autumn!

Val Bourne
Artistic Director

The Dance Umbrella commission from Shobana Jeyasingh at Greenwich Dance Agency promises to be one of the highlights in this year's festival. Donald Hutera spoke to the choreographer about the problems of choreographing simultaneous performance in London and Bangalore.

"WHAT'S UP AT GREENWICH?"

In early August the question was popped to Shobana Jeyasingh. Her reply betrayed a note of weary bewilderment. "What's NOT up? This has turned itself into a monster project." But beneath the veneer of exhaustion was more than a glimmer of exhilaration. Jeyasingh is on a hunt to make maverick technology work for her in a dance context.

"Greenwich started all this," the London-based choreographer confesses. "It's the distances that interested me, and the huge, curvy lines in the main hall - like a motorway." She's refering to Greenwich Dance Agency, the venue where she's preparing her newest work for presentation in Umbrella 2002. "It's a place with incredible potential. You need a huge budget to exploit everything it has to offer."

Umbrella, Jeyasingh's own eponymous company, ResCen (the Centre for Research into Creation in the Performing Arts at Middlesex University) and Greenwich Dance Agency have joined forces to realise a project she describes as "a trilogy of events: a live webcast, pre-filmed images and two dancers in real time." In a reversal of the usual procedure, the audience for [h]Interland will sit onstage facing what Jeyasingh envisions as a multi-layered canvas. The main floor and balcony will be occupied as live performance areas by dancers Mavin Khoo and Sowmya Gopalan, but they will also be used as projection spaces.

The most novel, complicated element of the performance is a live video streaming from India to Britain. In an arty expansion of teleconferencing - "What newscasters use," Jeyasingh explains - dancer Chitra Srishailan will be beamed into the venue from a rooftop in Bangalore. "I want to transfer her 'Bangalore-ness' to Greenwich," says Jeyasingh. Working with Terry Braun, she's hit upon the idea of a static camera. "I'm trying to choreograph an arithmetically precise, 45-minute dance script where the dancer edits herself for the camera." Additionally, she wants to present pre-recorded footage of Banaglore - "not a social document or travelogue, but a series of visual poems" - by Peter Gomes, her collaborator on the recent work Phantasmaton.

"Between the idea and its realisation are so many variables," Jeyasingh philosophises. "But I felt at the end of that piece that I got exactly what wanted." With [h]Interland she's discovering "what we need and seeing how we can do it. It's a huge undertaking. It's juggling the concept of what's possible while educating one's self in what's possible. Just knowing what software to use is a full-time job." Despite the fact that Bangalore is situated in what Jeyasingh dubs as "the Silicon Valley of India," she says there's no model for what she's trying to accomplish. "There IT and the arts haven't quite shaken hands yet. The technology is there for business. It's fine to see people's heads talk. We're demanding a lot more. We want the image to move."

Jeyasingh has entitled [h]Interland with very specific punctuation to indicate a remnant or hint. She thinks of it as "a facility for accessing other things. It says something about the geography between spaces." The lighting design is by her frequent collaborator, Lucy Carter. Jeyasingh found Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy through research (talking to people, getting her hands on lots of CDs). The first part of the performance is a piece of his which stipulates that, of the two vocalists he's using, one has blue hair and the other red. It's going to be a lively evening.

WHO: SHOBANA JEYASINGH DANCE COMPANY
WHAT: [h]INTERLAND
WHEN: THU 24 - SAT 26 OCT
WHERE: GREENWICH

Donald Hutera writes regularly on dance and arts for The Times, Evening Standard, Time Out, Dance Europe, Dance Magazine (US) and Dance Now. He is co-author, with Allen Robertson, of The Dance Handbook. This interview first appeared in the Spring 2002 edition of Dance Umbrella News.


Layout & Design: Lena Marie Stuart
US Director: Azlan Ezaddin
UK Director: Stuart Sweeney

All contributions as noted in each feature.