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Shobana Jeyasingh Launches a Dance Installation On Pandemic - Contagion

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This August Shobana Jeyasingh Dance presents two different versions of the intense and moving Contagion, co-commissioned by 14 - 18 NOW to commemorate the centenary of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

Originally created as a live dance installation, Jeyasingh's choreography echoes the scientific features of a virus - rapid, random and constantly shape-shifting. The female dancers contort, strategise and mutate as they explore both the resilience and the vulnerability of the human body; sometimes desperately nursing the sick, sometimes sick and dying themselves. The devastation to families and communities is laid bare. Graeme Miller's poetic sound-score, listened to through headsets, features extracts from diaries and medical records, the fluttering of wings and the cries of birds.

Monday 17 August sees a new filmed version of Contagion, created with film director Terry Braun from raw footage of a live performance at Winchester Great Hall in 2018. The film is the last of SJD SHORTS, a series of inventive translations of some of Jeyasingh's best works made during lockdown. The 15-minute film is bookended by conversations between Jeyasingh and Guardian dance critic Sanjoy Roy.

From Friday 21 to Sunday 23 August, The Grange Festival near Winchester presents a recreated outdoor version of this exploration of a 20th century global pandemic, restaged to suit the conditions of the present one. The similarities are remarkable. This short 10-minute work for four dancers, redrawn from the original, reminds us that it is finally the nursing delivered with devotion by family, neighbours and professionals that count in the end.

Shobana Jeyasingh says: "When I created Contagion, I felt the Spanish flu pandemic was only just beginning to assert itself in our collective memory. It was an event of dramatic global proportions but it had almost been forgotten. Now, two years later, we are living through our own version of it. Contagion opens with an Indian novelist's moving account of losing most of his family to the 1918 pandemic. Then, as now, the arts create a legacy that is a true testament of our times."

Conceived after the cancellation of The Grange Festival, Precipice is an outdoor immersive poetic sequence of different performances, both music and dance. The promenade is directed by Sinéad O'Neill and designed by Joanna Parker, using the varied natural stages offered by the buildings at The Grange. It will last an hour, and be presented to small audiences of up to 60 at a time, guided by Tonderai Monyevu.

Other performances include Sir John Tomlinson, singing a monologue of Hans Sachs from Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; Kiandra Howarth and Claire Barnett-Jones singing the flower duet from Delibes' Lakmé and a commission from the young South African dancer and choreographer Mthuthuzeli November of Ballet Black. Music Director John Andrews will co-ordinate members of The Grange Festival Chorus in performances of music by Francis Poulenc and Lili Boulanger. Further musical offerings come from Johann Sebastian Bach, John Tavener, Caroline Shaw and others.
Shobana Jeyasingh Launches a Dance Installation On Pandemic - Contagion


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