Interview: Sooraj Subramaniam, dancer in Baydere – The Ninth Life

Sooraj Subramaniam grew up in Malaysia, training in the Indian classical dance styles of Bharatanatyam and Odissi, before later training in classical ballet and contemporary dance forms. In September he will be performing in Shobana Jeyasingh’s Bayadere – The Ninth Life 2017 edit. We caught up with him ahead of the show’s world premiere at The Lowry (Thu 28 & Fri 29 September) to find out what he thinks of the original ballet La Bayadere and what it’s like to work with internationally acclaimed choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh.

Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Bayadere - the Ninth Life ROH 2015. Photographed by Bill Cooper.2

Have you seen the original ballet La Bayadere by Marius Petipa? If so, what did you think? And if not, did you have any opinion about it? 

This was during a period when I was obsessing about classical ballet, and I’d watch anything that came my way. I’d seen on video the Paris Opera perform the Rudolf Nureyev version, and I must admit I was blown away by the extravagance of it all. I was excited that there was indeed a whole ballet about something Indian, ballerinas in long braids with flowers, brocade tutus, weird ‘Indian’ hand gestures! An entire elephant rolls onto stage, have you seen that part?! It was beautiful and mad and bizarre all at once. I can’t say I was terribly perturbed by the gross orientalist goings-on, it’s pretty much what all the Sinbad movies from the 70s were about! Although, I do remember being disappointed by the score – I didn’t know who Minkus was, but I thought the poor fellow hadn’t a clue about creating an Indian mood.

What is it like to work with internationally acclaimed choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh?

It’s hard work: she does put you through the paces. I’ll admit to being intimidated at first. But, to be honest, I’m amazed at her work ethic: she spends break times poring over her notebook, lost in her work. She’s incredibly meticulous, leaving me at times bewildered; but you have to marvel at the cleverness, the detailing, of it all, when you can finally see the tapestry she’s weaving of so many seemingly disparate threads. There’s also that quietude that I particularly admire.

What is your favourite part of this new production Bayadere – The Ninth Life

The set by Tom Piper looks amazing. But of course the part where I’m lifted up by all those strong arms, that’s pretty special. 🙂

The new 2017 edit of Bayadere – The Ninth life will have its World Premiere at The Lowry. How important is it that Dance is seen outside of London? 

Very. London is special, and it draws to itself a lot of dancers, dance makers and audiences alike, but if we are to cultivate new audiences for dance, then it has to be seen in places outside of the big city. Different cities bring with them different cultural backgrounds, and with that different tastes and expectations for and of dance. Such richness of diversity can only benefit the art form in its experience and appreciation.

And lastly, before the curtain rises how do you prepare for a performance? 

I’m not good at following rituals, but I take a little time to focus on my breathing, to calm myself and centre my thoughts, just before stepping onto stage.

Sooraj Subramaniam will be performing in Bayadere – The Ninth Life at The Lowry Thu 28 & Fri 29 September. To book tickets visit The Lowry website or call box office on 0843 208 6000.