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Shobana Jeyasingh: [h]Interland    
The following observations and reflections by Shobana Jeyasingh, Hannah Bruce and Niki Pollard have been selected and edited by Sanjoy Roy.

Greenwich Dance Agency

   
Shobana, in conversation with Niki, 14 September 2002

SJ The GDA space will influence the nature of the movement I create. I am not seeing it as a performance space, a stage in which things will happen. Rather I am seeing it in terms of lines, routes, pathways, doors. A collection of roads, rather than a central space.

Shobana, in conversation with Christopher Bannerman, November 2002

SJ Theatrical space is what I call ‘arrival’ space. Everything is there, it is designed to be a neutral space, where things happen. To me, the Borough Hall didn’t look interesting from that point of view. There is a lighting rig, but it is large and gloomy with custard-coloured walls and too many doors. It seemed to me that the hall needed to be re-imagined. I liked the balcony because of its height, and its curve. I liked the fact that there was the lift in front of the main doors. Those were the only features; the whole piece became a way of accessing them. It had to be a way of travelling from one feature to another - and all those interesting features were actually doorways.

Departures and arrivals

Shobana, in conversation with Hannah, 12 November 2002

SJ Of course, the building itself isn’t a cosy building. For me, the many doors really made the building. It’s the ways of getting out of the building that actually made it more interesting, and the possibility of leaving the space.

Shobana, in conversation with Niki, 1 November 2002

SJ Originally, I thought Mavin would enter the space through the lifts at the beginning of the performance. But then I said, I think he is going to leave rather than come in. When you signal that you are leaving somewhere, psychologically you put the audience into a very different relationship to that space. If I had had him coming in, it would have been a completely different piece. If you arrive, the space becomes the thing. Whereas if you leave, you erase something.

NP and you immediately have a sense of gDA extending beyond what you can see?

SJ yes, so that it does not become the primary thing, as a stage space is. I think that that was probably the most important decision of that piece. Linked to that was the decision that Mavin would be retreating, rather than turning his back to the audience. He wasn’t leaving the audience behind, only the space. We tried all those things – was he going to turn his back? was he going to do his material in reverse order – so that the material registered as retreat more than departure. In a way, I think all the piece is about departures and arrivals.

Lighting

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Shobana, in conversation with Hannah, 12 November 2002

SJ Lucy's whole lighting was just about pathways really… […] The lighting is such a crucial partner, especially at Greenwich Dance Agency. The most important area was under the balcony, and everything else was slightly extraneous. I never thought about it as a central hall, and the lighting never gave prominence to the central space […] but instead strongly suggested travel. It carried the eye from one place to another rather than resting it firmly in one place.

Shobana, in conversation with Niki, 1 November 2002

SJ [,,,] we didn’t want to light the walls at all. If you had seen the space with the walls where they normally were, the dancers would have looked completely lost. Instead, we wanted a particular kind of presence, a plasticity, to the space, so that there was no set scale. In reality, it is a huge space but with the lighting it could feel huge if you wanted it, but also small and intimate if I needed.

NP Was that idea difficult with the lighting requirements of using video projection?

SJ in theatre it would have been more of a problem, because the space is smaller. The issue with video is that, in order to see it, the space must be dark – but then you can’t see the dancer. With lighting higher, the colours of the video are washed-out. That was another reason then for colour throughout the production to be hyper-exaggerated. The palettes we used meant that lighting was not in fact restricted.

Film

Shobana, in conversation with Niki, 1 November 200

NP You were with Pete [Gomes, Bangalore Film Director] in Bangalore when he was making the films that are projected as part of [h]Interland?

SJ Yes. What the camera looked at was fundamentally determined by the ideas behind the piece. For various reasons, Bangalore is, I suppose, my hinterland. I wanted my impression of Bangalore to be what the film was about. Certain things he liked - for instance, the rose garden, temples, how fruit was piled up in a market – I knew could never be part of the film. I knew the film had to be to do with traffic and with a woman on a motorbike.

I had a very clear image that I wanted the film to capture the acceleration and intensity of Bangalore. I knew that it was going to be not a naturalistic film, but one highly manipulated through colour; cars would be pink, leaves blue, Chitra was going to be purple. Rather than the intensity of a natural green leaf, the film had to have the intensity that artifice gives.
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