Shobana Jeyasingh is always pushing her own envelope – and our expectations. In Transtep she takes a step sideways by inviting three other choreographers – Rashpal Singh Bansal, Filip Van Huffel and Lisa Torun – to contribute sections. Jeyasingh’s own compositions open and close the piece, returning intermittently as links that overlap and blur the transitions.
like a composite creature whose limbs extend and curve, as if measuring the folds of space around its own body
It helps to keep this in mind through the work’s shifts of style and register, so that you can focus on its detail without worrying about its direction. At the beginning, two women somehow remain poised while their limbs are galvanised by nervy flicks and skewed stretches. Later, four dancers step forward and back as the fifth circles an arm towards them like a open question. A quartet cluster beneath a cone of light, like a composite creature whose limbs extend and curve, as if measuring the folds of space within and around its own body. One section suggests a ritual: circular runs mark out an area inside which the men draw into a crouching, coiling mass, like wraiths invoked from the ground.
Curiously, it is the classical music sections (Mozart and Monteverdi) that are least compelling. The melody and metre are too familiar, and don’t leave the movement space to speak for itself. For though the music is vital – as is Lucy Carter’s elegant lighting – the piece stands ultimately on its movement.
There is much to savour: the dancers’ style is distinctive, often fascinating, the composition intelligent, and the partnerwork is more varied and fluid than we’ve seen before from Jeyasingh’s company. But without an underlying drive and direction its energies begin to feel too dispersed, and its episodic nature gives the sense of an ending several times before the ending actually comes.