October 28 2015
Celebrated dancer has conceived new piece based on award-winning and very personal show ‘Desh’ for children in an exciting collaboration…
By Suman Bhuchar
“Chotto Desh” is the first ever dance work for children created by the Akram Khan Company, adapted from his acclaimed production, “Desh“.
On Friday (October 23) www.asianculturevulture.com saw its world premiere at Dance East in Ipswich.
Phillipines-born dancer, Nicolas Ricchini was trying to convince the audience with a great deal of success – that he was Akram Khan as the story of the production is so personal. (He will be alternating this with dancer, Dennis Alamanos, because it is a physical demanding solo piece as the dancer is on stage for duration of 50 minutes).
“Chotto Desh” or ‘Small Homeland’, as the title suggests draws on the cross cultural story telling style of Akram Khan Company to tell the story of a young British Bangladeshi man, who dreams of becoming a dancer!
The show begins with an irate young man, ‘Akram’ asking a Bangladeshi call centre, Tech support assistant – how to get into his phone because he has lost his password – while negotiating the busy noisy streets of an imaginary Dhaka road!
There are some very funny lines such as the grown up Akram saying to the call centre operator:
“You sound like a child?
“I am 12 years old,” comes the reply.
“How can a child like you help me?”
“How can a man like you not know how to reset his password?”
There’s a lot of humour in the performance and the piece is punctuated with individual scenes – all drawn from Akram Khan’s own personal story. The piece is interspersed with voiced over text in Bengali and English. The text has been written by poet and writer, Karthika Nair – who was also part of “Desh” and Khan himself.
The production is directed by Sue Buckmaster, an acclaimed puppet maker whose company, Theatre-Rites, has been at the forefront of providing inspiring site specific, cross art form work for children.
Buckmaster spoke to www.asianculturevulture.com and explained how the project came about.
She said that she met Akram Khan a few years ago and they kept in touch.
“I was introduced to Akram way back when I did ‘Mischief’ (the show toured from 2007-2009) a dance piece with my company Theatre Rites that was performed at Sadler’s Wells.
“We make work for children in dance and he was just beginning to make Desh and we talked about being on stage doing a solo piece.
He was doing a workshop in Grenoble (France) and he invited me to see it. And, as we talked, I asked if he would consider making work for children, so we kept in touch and after ‘Desh’ came out (in 2011). People said how dream-like and how child like some of it was.”
The long and short of this is that Buckmaster, acquired a video performance of the show and began to watch it continuously for six months considering the ‘child friendly’ aspects of the production as well as talking to Khan about the process of making the show.
In the end, they selected 25 minutes of the original material and decided to create new work for the rest of the production, which was more in tune with children’s sensibilities and would be true to the original ethos of “Desh”.
Buckmaster worked with, assistant choreographer, Jose Agudo, who has worked with the AKDC on several projects including, “Desh”, “Torobaka” and this one.
“Chotto Desh” has at its core, the father /son relationship and explores the dynamics of having a dual identity of being British and Bangladeshi.
There is a beautiful sequence where Akram behaves like a typical teenager who is asked by his dad’s voice (incidentally played by Akram himself) to “come and help me with my work”.
We already know that his dad uses his hands to cook and feed people and in the UK has a restaurant.
His Dad is telling him things like: “Take on some responsibility, Man Up”; so the teenager rushes into his bedroom (delineated by a square on the floor) – expresses his pent up rage and his egotistical sense of self by doing some boxing, Michael Jackson and hip hop moves as well as Kathak dance, before finally acknowledging to himself and revealing to his father.
“I want to dance dad, I am going to be a dancer.”
There is a lot to enjoy in this finely made production of “Chotto Desh” – from the dance, to music, the story-telling as well as the animation. There is a haunting music score by Jocelyn Pook and the visual animation is created by Yeast Culture.
On that evening, there were several giggling children who really got it and the grownups were also mesmerised.
The show has a long tour across the UK is being presented by MOKO dance – a dance partnership promoting dance to children and their families and led by Dance East, a dance agency based in Ipswich, and will be touring several venues across the UK until December 5.
It has been selected by the Mayor of Newham to be the ‘must see’ show for Year 6 schoolchildren. These are the borough’s 10 to 11 year olds who are in the last year of primary school. before they have to make choices to into secondary school. They will be able to see “Chotto Desh” at a long run at Stratford Circus from January 16-23 2016. It will then enjoy an international tour from February 2016 onwards.
As Sue Buckmaster outlined: “Chotto Desh is very pertinent right now as our young people are experiencing increased pressure associated with a multicultural society. It will inspire children to think about their own stories and perhaps make their own autobiographical art full of truth and beauty.”
Do go and see if you especially if you want to know whether he recovered his password or not!
Co-commissioned by MOKO Dance, Akram Khan Company, Sadler’s Wells, DanceEast, Theatre de la Ville Paris, Biennale de la danse de Lyon 2016, Mercat de les Flors Barcelona and Stratford Circus Arts Centre. Supported by Arts Council England
Photo credit – Richard Haughton for Akram Khan Company and MOKO Dance
* Further UK dates have been added (to those first published below).
The show has a tour across the UK is being presented by MOKO dance – a dance partnership promoting dance to children and their families and led by Dance East, a dance agency based in Ipswich, and will be touring several venues across the UK until December 5.
‘Chotto Desh‘ can be seen in Bournemouth, Corby, Nottingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Leeds and Leicester from November 7. Please see for details http://mokodance.com/shows/chotto-desh/
- ‘Chotto Desh’ Sadler’s Wells, Friday, October 30 + October 31 Sold out
- At Stratford Circus from January 16 and 23 only, 2016
3pm Stratford Circus Arts Centre, Theatre Square Stratford, London E15 1BX
From age 7 upwards Tickets: £8-£10