The City of London Festival pulled off something of a coup in securing the steps of St Paul’s for a dance event, Shobana Jeyasingh’s 2Step performed by 20 students from London Contemporary Dance School, Laban and Central School of Ballet. It proved a mixed blessing in the end not only because dancers are just not used to dancing on steps, but also because it all had to be delivered with Wren’s masterpiece as a backdrop. That the students looked somewhat overwhelmed was not surprising; that they varied enormously in dance style and in projecting pleasure in performance can be ascribed to their wildly differing training.
Jeyasingh, whose own company celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, wisely accompanied Panufnik’s opening fanfare from Sinfonia Sacra by evoking the monumentalism of both setting and music with a series of posed lifts. Movement on a flight of steps can essentially go two ways – across or up and down; Jeyasingh attempted rows of dancers crossing each other, but with the limitations to movement, that was not successful. Of more interest was the progression of ever-increasing numbers of dancers, at times synchronised, at others performing different moves down towards the audience.
Not all the dancers had mastered the elements of Indian classical dance that is Jeyasingh’s trademark, but when it was delivered well the characteristic turnout at the hips and the carriage of the arms melded comfortably into the dance idiom.
The final section, “Kesariya”, was to a faster tempo, and wisely the dancers were confined to the central platform that interrupts the steps; here they could jump more and show a greater hunger for space. But the wind was howling and spots of rain were falling, so few passers-by stopped to watch. I am sure the lack of ensemble at times will be tidied up before the final performance on August 24 as part of celebrations for the handover of the Olympic Games to London.
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