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Material Men

Material Men is a virtuoso piece for two dazzling performers of the Indian diaspora, who chose to dance very differently. Contrasts in style between classical and hip hop, as well as similarities of origin are the starting points for a dynamic exploration of rhythm, location and shared history. Material Men featured a newly commissioned score by Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin, performed live by The Smith Quartet. Additional sound design was provided by Leafcutter John.

Material Men was commissioned by Southbank Centre, and premiered in Autumn 2015 in a double bill with the much-acclaimed Strange Blooms.


Listen to Surface Tension – the podcast from Shobana Jeyasingh Dance.
In Episode 1, Guardian Dance Critic Sanjoy Roy talks to Shobana and composer Michael Nyman about their collaboration on Configurations from 1989.

Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London
 Sept 2015
Double bill with Strange Blooms

The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
22 Sept 2015
Double bill with Strange Blooms

Brighton Dome
6 Oct 2015
Double bill with Strange Blooms

Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
8 Oct 2015
Double bill with Strange Blooms

Aberystwyth Arts Centre
15 Oct 2015
Double bill with Strange Blooms

Bahoran’s and Subramaniam’s dance forms… produce a tension that is truly captivating to watch. The standing ovation and roar of the audience really said it all

Asian Culture Vulture

…marvellously intense… the double edges of clarity and complexity, contrast and connection, are pure Jeyasingh

The Guardian

… one of our brainiest choreographers … skilfulness, nuanced power and sheer watchability

The Times

Creative Team

Shobana Jeyasingh / Concept, Choreography & Direction

Shobana Jeyasingh has been creating dynamic, fearless and enigmatic dance works for almost 30 years. Born in Chennai, India, she currently lives and works in London. Her acclaimed, highly individual work has been witnessed in all kinds of venues, including theatres, outdoor and indoor sites and on film. Her work taps into both the intellectual and physical power of dance, and is rooted in her particular vision of culture and society.

Shobana’s work is often enriched by specially commissioned music composed by an array of contemporary composers — from Michael Nyman to beat-boxer Shlomo. Her eclectic band of creative collaborators have included filmmakers, mathematicians, digital designers, writers, animators, as well as lighting and set designers.

Lavishly honoured and awarded, Shobana has also made a significant contribution to dance in the UK and internationally through her published writings, papers, panel presentations and broadcast interviews.

Photo by JP Masclet

Elena Kats-Chernin / Composer

Elena Kats-Chernin is one of the most cosmopolitan composers working today, reaching millions through her prolific catalogue of works for theatre, ballet, orchestra and chamber ensemble. Born in Tashkent, she received training at the Gnessin Musical College before immigrating to Australia. She graduated from the New South Wales Conservatory before studying in Germany where she remained for 13 years, returning to Australia in 1994. Her energetic, and often propulsive music has been choreographed by dance-makers around the world. In 2000, she collaborated with Meryl Tankard; Deep Sea Dreaming (part of the opening ceremonies of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games). In 2011, Elena was appointed Composer-in-Residence with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Her adaptation of Monteverdi’s three operas at the Komische Oper Berlin premiered in 2012, and in 2014 Frankenstein won the Sydney Theatre Award 2013 for Best Score. Three Dancers, choreographed by Didy Veldman for Rambert premiered at Sadler’s Wells in 2015.

Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes.

Photo by Bridget Elliot

Simon Daw / Set & Costume Designer

Simon’s work is focused on two areas: the design of set, costume and video for theatre, dance and opera; and the creation of interactive performance works.

1984, Northern Ballet; World Factory, Metis Arts/Young Vic; Owen Wingrave, Aldeburgh Music/Edinburgh International Festival; Sheppey, French Without Tears, The Philanderer, Orange Tree Theatre; Eventual Progress, Ekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre; Waiting for Godot, Wonderful Tennessee, Democracy, The Winter’s Tale, The Daughter-In-Law, Sheffield Theatres; The Metamorphosis, Linbury, Royal Opera House and The Joyce, New York; Dead Heavy Fantastic, Lost Monsters, Liverpool Everyman; As One, Royal Ballet; Dolls, National Theatre of Scotland; Fast Labour, Hampstead Theatre/West Yorkshire Playhouse; DNA, Baby Girl, The Miracle, The Enchantment, National Theatre; Elling, Bush and Trafalgar Studios; Romeo and Juliet, RSC Stratford/Albery; Bloom, Rambert.

Bruno Poet / Lighting Designer

Dance credits include: Zeitgeist (Alastair Marriott at London Coliseum); Connectome, Other Stories (Royal Ballet); A Visitation, I Thought I Heard Somebody Calling (Scottish Dance); Dog (Hofesh Schecter for Scottish Dance); Tree Finger Soup (Rambert) and Elsa Canasta (Scottish Ballet).

Recent Opera and Theatre credits include: Don Giovanni (ROH); La Boheme (Washington National Opera); Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, Treasure Island (National); Miss Saigon (West End); The Two Gentleman of Verona (RSC).

Bruno received the 2012 Olivier Award for Best Lighting Design for Frankenstein at The National Theatre and the Knight of Illumination Award 2013 for his concert lighting design for acclaimed Icelandic band Sigur Rós’ world tour.

Leafcutter John / Electronic Music

Leafcutter John is an award winning musician and artist living in London. His releases on Planet Mu, Staubgold and Desire Path Recordings combine elements of music-concrete and electro-acoustic music with voice and guitar work more commonly found in folk music.

John has developed a light controlled music performance system that is played gesturally using handheld lights. Winning the Qwartz prize for innovation in 2015 for his work on it.

John has toured extensively and worked/played with a wide verity of musicians, poets and choreographers including: Beck, Thursten Moore, Imogen Heap, Wayne Mcgregor, BBC Symphony and Concert orchestras, Matmos, Grace Jones, Nick Cave, Yo La Tengo, Beth Orton, Talvin Singh, and Otomo Yoshihide.

John is also a key member of Polar Bear, a twice Mercury Music Prize-nominated band based in London.

The Smith Quartet / Live Music

(L-R) Ian Humphries (Violin), Deirdre Cooper (Cello), Rick Koster (Violin), Nic Pendlebury (Viola)

For over 25 years, The Smith Quartet have been at the forefront of the world’s contemporary music scene. They have developed a repertoire by some of the world’s most exciting composers and have established an international reputation for their dynamic style and original approach to contemporary music.

They have performed at many of the major music festivals and venues in the UK and around the world, and collaborated with unique artists of different genres including dance. They have broadcast extensively for the BBC and recorded more than 20 discs including the Glass and Reich quartets with Signum Records.

Photo by Hugo Glendinning

Rachel Shipp / Production Manager Fred De Faye / Sound Engineer

A sonic artist and composer, and member of the People Show theatre, Fred learnt his trade in Paris as a recording engineer, moving to England to become the personal recording engineer of the Eurhythmics.

Through his career he has mixed and recorded albums for the likes of Bob Dylan, The Prodigy, Depeche mode, Tom Petty, David Gray and many more. He has sound designed for theatrical experiences created by Punchdrunk, Burberry, Tods and Philipp Plein fashion shows in Paris, London and Milan. Fred has also composed music for choreographer Garance Marneur, on behalf of Levy Dance in San Francisco, for Alone Together and Pull Me Closer part of the SF International Art Festival 2017.

Touring as a live sound engineer, his broad client base includes choreographer Lee Anderson, Patti Smith, and the KLF Welcome to the Dark Ages. Fred has worked with Shobana Jeyasingh for the past eight years.


Shailesh Bahoran

Shailesh Bahoran is a versatile dancer, theatre director and choreographer. His work is characterised by a free artistic vision in which he continuously looks to stimulate moods and emotions from his audience; this philosophical approach, innovative and experimental pieces has led to acclaim throughout the dance world. In addition to being a theatre-maker, Shailesh is a versatile hip hop dancer who is distinguished by his phenomenal technique, originality and expressiveness. He has firm roots in the hip hop culture but is certainly not afraid to think outside the box, and has worked with Dutch National Ballet, Don’t Hit Mama, Netherlands Symphony Orchestra and the Amsterdam Academy of the Arts.

Photo by Steven Tips

Sooraj Subramaniam

Sooraj Subramaniam began training at the Sutra Dance Theatre, Malaysia, in Bharatanatyam, Odissi, classical ballet and contemporary dance forms. He graduated with an Advanced Diploma in Performing Arts (Dance) from the Western Australian Academy for Performing Arts.

Since 2007 Sooraj has been working in the United Kingdom, principally with Srishti – Nina Rajarani Dance Creations, and also with Akademi, Balbir Singh Dance Company and Shobana Jeyasingh Dance, performing across the UK and Europe. Currently he lives in Belgium and works as a freelancer.

Photo by Simon Richardson


Commissioned by Southbank Centre in 2015
Music commissioned with funding from the RPS Drummond Fund
Photos by Jane Hobson

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