Decreasing Infinity, performed at the Stage@Leeds theatre, is the latest piece by Balbir Singh Dance Company. Having previously worked with all female dancers for Play of Percentages and Trespass, the male duet was a new challenge for the choreographer. This cross-disciplinary investigation utilises four very distinctive key elements: western contemporary dance, classical kathak, tabla and human beatbox.
Dancers Ezekiel Oliveira and Sooraj Subramaniam together with musicians Kousic Sen (tabla) and Jason Singh (human beatbox) shared their thoughts and feelings in a pre-show film created by Andy Wood. It gave an endearing insight into the journey of this piece and the route the artists took to bring it to life. The film provided useful information to those less familiar with kathak and its complexity and also served to whet the appetite for the piece to follow.
The positioning of the musicians emphasised the diagonal connections created by the dancers. One had the sense that rhythms and themes bounced off one another, creating many tantalising layers. All eight sections were defined, showing changing relationships whether it was spatially, rhythmically or stylistically. There were certainly distinctive moods aided by the sensitive lighting of Michael Mannion. He used hazy blurred spots, which could be identified with the merge of both musical and dance styles.
Initially Balbir Singh explored kathak and contemporary dance at their purest but finally the two styles amalgamated. Numbers and patterns evolved as a common thread. This also rang true with the musicians. They too explored purity and honesty of expression. Jason Singh’s knowledge of classical Indian music enhanced the interaction with Kousic Sen. Although beatboxing is a stark contrast to traditional sounds, it was an integral part of the audio dialogue being a successful device to engage new audiences as well. The concept of finding a holistic nature or the same voice among alternative forms was engagingly explored.
Both dancers, skilled in their own disciplines, were readily influenced by the other, until the phrases seamlessly evolved into something new. It was exciting to see Ezekiel Oliveira throw subtle responses to Sooraj Subramaniam’s bold and precise kathak. The reactions of Ezekiel were acute with great expression showing a similarity of feeling or complementary movements. Both dancers had a wonderful truthful quality, which drew one into their world.
The duet was driven by masculine attack with more sensual choreography of previous works absent. There was a constant teasing of compositional information, which would be resolved. Within the tightly arranged structure the artists had complete ownership of the polished material. This was a thrilling and captivating journey with all elements equal. This was collaboration at its richest. We can only hope that questions and further ideas arose out of this creation to develop yet another.