Once again, Shobana Jeyasingh’s double bill draws on themes of hybridity and migration; once again, she surprises her audience. Strange Blooms (2013) is about plants, but not as you might imagine. In the opening section, Sunflower Saplings, the dancers explode in high-tension torques, accompanied by what sounds like boulders breaking. The next, Branching, is more algorithmic than organic, the dancers generating fractal lines from which their limbs shoot like spikes. Cellular Instabilities sees them pitching into perilous interactions, while the closing Strange Blooms resolves on the chimerical image of a couple conjoined into a single, hard-graft hybrid.
Forget delicate fronds and posies: Strange Blooms taps the power of roots that split rocks and tendrils that strangle. Though its vision is severe, the density of detail sometimes overwhelming and its score (by Gabriel Prokofiev) fractious, it prises open your brain and reconfigures how you think.
a length of gold sari, an embryonic wrap that births them like brothers
Material Men is altogether more human. A voiceover introduces Sooraj Subramaniam and Shailesh Bahoran as dancers of Indian origin who have arrived on this stage through different routes, bharatanatyam-trained Subramaniam via Malaysia and Australia, hip-hop dancer Bahoran via Surinam and Holland. Jeyasingh choreographs that abstract arc from root to re-encounter. A row of girders bisects the stage like an open fence. To Elena Kats-Chernin’s vibrant and seductive string quartet score, the dancers initially appear enclosed in a length of gold sari, an embryonic wrap that births them like brothers. At first the cloth connects them, but soon they separate, physically and stylistically. In a marvellously intense section of loops and stops, Subramaniam takes on the formalised language of classical dance while Bahoran invents a gripping, street-inflected idiolect of volatile dislocations and sinewy torsion.
Finally they reconnect, not harmoniously but through strange reverberations – the darting gaze of Subramaniam’s eyes echoed in the jut of Bahoran’s shoulders, or the slap of his foot suddenly reminiscent of a krump-style stomp. The style and personality are the dancers’; the double edges of clarity and complexity, contrast and connection, are pure Jeyasingh.