The casualty count of the First World War was immense – but it came to be dwarfed by the deadly Spanish flu pandemic that swept through the world during the conflict’s final year. The virulent flu strain that emerged in 1918 infected up to 500 million people around the globe, its effects dramatically amplified by huge wartime troop movements. It eventually killed as much as five per cent of the world’s population.
Contagion, a powerful new work from leading choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh, is inspired by the nature and rapid spread of the flu virus – the unseen enemy that mankind was battling, while engaging in more conventional warfare in the world outside. The striking work of the Austrian artist Egon Schiele, one of many who fell victim to the Spanish flu, forms a visual footnote to the piece.
Set to an atmospheric soundscape and presented in promenade style with striking digital visuals, Contagion is presented in unusual venues, many with connections to the First World War. The work is accompanied by an innovative digital amplification and learning and engagement programme, bringing the public closer to a subject that remains relevant today.
Co-commisioned by 14-18 NOW and Shobana Jeyasingh Dance, supported by Wellcome, Oak Foundation and the Deborah Loeb Brice Donor Advised Fund at CAF America