WINDOW ON THE ARTS by Timothy Elphick
THE mystical beauty of the East meets the West in a dance triple bill next week, when Indian Christian Shobana Jeyasingh unveils a lyrical response to the cross-currents of faith that have influenced her life.
Jeyasingh's Byzantium, with a score by the Greek-born composer Christos Hatzis, was inspired by the ancient city of the Eastern Empire which became Constantinople and is now Istanbul where the two great continents of Europe and Asia meet.
There is no place which so epitomises the fusion of East and West as Istanbul, with its bazaars and oriental street traders, and the haunting relics of a past Christendom the churches (now mostly mosques or falling into dereliction) of a city that once boasted a thousand spires.
In Byzantium, Jeyasingh, a high-Church Anglican Tamil born in the sub-tropical city of Madras in the south of India, has tapped into the rhythmic excitement of this greal crosscultural metropolis.
"As an Indian I was struck by the very oriental quality of the Byzantine churches the colours and the the way the liturgy is expressed all point to the East," says Jeyasingh.
"In Europe it is very easy to think of Christianity as separate from the traditions and culture of the Middle East but it is after all an eastern religion. And the Christianity of Byzantium is a very early form of Christianity with a very oriental flavour," she says.
Jeyasingh points also to the early origins of Christianity in India, where the Church is said to have been founded in Kerala by St Thomas the Apostle. The Indian way of worshipping, in the churches and the Hindu temples, shares with the Byzantine tradition the extravagant use of symbolism, the love of ceremonial and an emphasis on public worship.
"So it seemed apt to draw on the eastern Christian tradition using the language of Indian classical dance," she said.
The Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company's show, New Cities Ancient Lands, is at the South Bank Centre's Purcell Room, London, from July 29 August 1 at 8pm. Tickets .f8 (f6 concessions) on 071-928 8800.