Akram Khan Company

"Kaash (If...)"

Brighton Corn Exchange, Brighton, UK
April 6, 2002
By Lyndsey Winship

Akram Khan brings an arresting energy to the stage, as you might expect from someone who has injected the British dance scene with a jolt of fresh talent. The UK premiere of Kaash is the culmination of collaboration between Khan, composer Nitin Sawhney and sculptor Anish Kapoor - an invincible trio in the realm of artistic innovation. While Khan's collaborators may we more well known than he is, it is his choreography and performers who really provide the juice to electrify this hour-long piece.

Kapoor's backdrop is dominated by a dense black rectangle, a blank void and an unknowable dimension behind the world we are being presented onstage. Rothko-esque, its blurred frame seems to pulse, sometimes glowing red, sometimes stark monochrome. It is a very stylish production; dancers dressed in asymmetrically cut, granite-flecked tunics and slim trousers, with muscular frames, quick feet and impassioned eyes. It could be and Arts Council trophy piece, modern, multimedia, multicultural and very good-looking.

While Kapoor's set provides a monumental presence, Sawhney's score is an agile partner to the movement. Ferocious tablas keep an incessant pulse, accents jarring and driving the dance. Later the musician's voice will be the instrument, speaking the tala (rhythmic patterns) to single syllables with one prescribed movement for each beat. Developing and extending the rhythm with the dancing bodies amplifying the structure into three dimensions.

Trained in North Indian Kathak dancing, Khan has merged its shapes and rhythms with contemporary dance resulting in a fusion with a real kick. The movements are strong, curt, cutting and precise. Slicing at diagonals yet seamlessly fluid. Propelled by arms and upper bodies, you can feel their resistance against the air, or perhaps against an invisible combatant in a silent battle of nerve.

Much of the power comes from the exceptionally tight ensemble, meticulously drilled in manoeuvres, despite an injury in the company meaning replacement Maho Ihara had only two days to rehearse the piece. The five dancers move in strict unison before one breaks away to test their individualism, returning to the group, but then splintering into pairs and trios. The dancers don't partner each other; they dance as one, often facing the audience. Everyone is driven on by the same invisible force, and the audience are equally swept forward in this progression, engaged in the energy of the performers - beating in synch.

The second section introduces the 'If...' of the title. We hear spoken phrases on reflection and possibility together with a more lyrical choreography. 'If you don't like what you see don't look', they say. 'If the whole world followed me, would it like where I took them?' Well we do like what we see, and we can't wait to follow Khan's next journey.


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Edited by Marie.

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