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Surface Tension – the podcast from Shobana Jeyasingh Dance

Listen now! Surface Tension is available from iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, Libsyn, and on our YouTube channel.


2019 marks the 30th anniversary of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance. To celebrate we’re producing a series of podcasts that explore Shobana’s work, her pioneering vision and her contribution to the UK’s cultural landscape.

Join Guardian Dance critic Sanjoy Roy as he interviews Shobana, company dancers and collaborators to examine the themes and inspiration behind her adventurous work. We delve into the archives to find out how Shobana’s choreography did (or didn’t) fit into the dance scene 30 years ago, her research and creative processes, dance styles and the alternative path she has taken from the outset of her career.


Episode 1. Configurations

‘System, meet system.’ When Shobana Jeyasingh met Michael Nyman.

Sanjoy Roy speaks to choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh and composer Michael Nyman to get their take on how the Configurations collaboration came about. Each share memories about the process, research and how they combined contrasting elements of Western contemporary music and classical South Asian dance.

Shobana tells how the relationship between choreographer and composer was all about communicating patterns of rhythm, in this instance, with no shared musical history and details the challenges of representing Bharatha Natyam dance via a string quartet.

Michael candidly describes how Shobana ‘threw down the gauntlet’ in supplying precise notations on bharatanatyam rhythms and how she inspired him to write ‘String Quartet No. 2’.

After first hearing Michael’s score Shobana recounts her initial impressions, running around the sound world trying to find information that dancers needed. We hear how the piece finally came together with choreography and music and how it evolved into quartet, via a trio. Shobana talks through the balancing act between the visuals and the richness of the music.

Produced by Melissa FitzGerald


With: Michael Nyman @michaelnyman

Michael Nyman is one of the UK’s most innovative and celebrated composers. His reputation is built upon a substantial body of work written for a wide variety of ensembles, not only for his own band, but also for symphony orchestra, choir and string quartet.

Film scores include The Draughtsman’s Contract, Prospero’s Books, A Zed and Two Naughts and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, all directed by Peter Greenaway

Other scores include Neil Jordan’s The End Of The Affair; Michael Winterbottom’s Wonderland, A Cock And Bull Story, and The Trip; Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca, and Jane Campion’s The Piano, the soundtrack album of which has sold more than three million copies. His music was used in the BAFTA award winning and Oscar nominated film, Man on Wire.


Presented by Sanjoy Roy @sanj0yr0y

Sanjoy Roy (London, UK) has been writing on dance for the Guardian since 2002, and has contributed to many other publications including the New York TimesNew StatesmanDance Gazette and Dancing Times, and is London correspondent for Dance International magazine. He is currently also the editor of Springback Magazine, a Europe-wide online dance journal launched in 2018. First writing about Shobana in 1997, he has since written reviews and articles on her work, as well as interviews, programme notes and education materials for her company.


Sanjoy Roy and Michael Nyman
Configurations (2012)

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