Hit young people’s version of Akram Khan’s seminal production ‘Desh’ returns to home of British dance before North America tour…
AS ‘CHOTTO DESH’ gets under way at Sadler’s Wells from Thursday (October 18) for three mornings and afternoons, www.asianculturevulture.com spoke to two of the dancers who have performed Akram Khan’s work for young people all over the world.
Nicholas Ricchini and Dennis Alamanos are two Akram Khan Company dancers who perform ‘Chotto Desh’.
The 50-minute piece is an adapted and abbreviated form of Khan’s seminal, award-winning, solo performance piece, ‘Desh’ – which literally means ‘home’ in several Asian languages. Chotto means small, and so ‘small homeland’ returns to the London stage.
Anyone over the age of seven can enjoy it and a lot of Khan’s themes about identity, belonging and physical, spiritual and bodily selfhood are contained within it. There is a lot of humour and play at work and it has proved a big hit eevrywhere it has gone.
You can read more about how the production first came about in this piece from almost exactly three years ago, when it was first performed in the UK – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/chotto-desh-akram-khan-inspiring-next-gen/
Now there have been hundreds of performances all over the world – Ricchini told us he had appeared in no less than 324 shows before the piece returns to the stage at Sadler’s Wells again this autumn.
ACV: What are the challenges or differences between this and conventional work, if any, for a piece which is specifically constructed for children?
Nicholas Ricchini (NR): The approach is mostly the same but you have to take special care – it is important to be honest, you have to make things happen from a very honest place – it is important to be earnest, children know if you are just pretending.
Dennis Alamano (DA): There are a few challenges, it is a work created for children and family audiences. You have to focus on these elements.
ACV: What makes it so endearing? ACV has seen ‘Chotto Desh’ and the audience reaction from young people and adults is very positive, both are very and equally enthralled?
NR: Sue Buckmuster (an acclaimed puppeteer and theatre educator who helped Khan to adapt it) is amazing; she has a lot of experience working with young children and creating work for them. Even though it is a solo work, there are a lot of elements coming from outside – all this makes it very diverse.
DA: It is a fairy tale and we are sharing that. There are transformations, animations and music. It is probably more compact and flexible than the original.
ACV: Do audiences react to it the same the world over?
NR: No, in Spain, children were shouting and showing their appreciation, in Japan, there were sitting there very quiet, it is not that they didn’t enjoy it, it is just a different form of reaction – it’s all internal.
DA: It’s a story about a man revisiting his memories. Both children and adults find a lot.
ACV: What is your background and how did you come to be a professional dancer in Akram Khan Company (AKC)?
NR: I grew up in a small village in France and I started dancing from the age of eight. It was just a hobby, and I used to do urban, hip-hop and modern dance. I loved it but did not thinking about being a professional until a teacher said I should try when I was 18, or I would regret it for the rest of my life. I was planning on going to university and be a German language university teacher. I trained in France and moved to Barcelona.
I first danced for Akram Khan Company (AKC) in 2012 as part of the London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, it was an incredible experience and I loved with working with AKC.
DA: I am half-Greek, half-Philippine and was born and raised in Greece. It started as a hobby, just hip hop and dancing with friends. I enjoyed it a lot and so when I was 18, I took a risk and got accepted into the National School of Dance in Athens. It is very competitive because you do not have to pay, it is subsidised.
I jumped at the chance of auditioning for ‘Chotto Desh’. I was inspired by Akram’s work through one of my teachers, who also loved his work. I’ve been with AKC for three years (since ‘Chotto Desh’ was born and started touring).
ACV: Do you have plans beyond ‘Chotto Desh’?
NR: I am going to be leaving the stage in November and a year ago started my own production and management company (based in Barcelona), Big Story Performing Arts Services – I will be supporting other artists now. I am very excited about it.
DA: I want to choreograph but I am not giving up dancing yet. I want to start a company and make my own work. We have been and still are going through an (economic) crisis in Greece – before there was more money in the arts but people are finding ways, working together, supporting each other and creating new platforms. I always tell others, ‘be patient, believe in your work and your ideas and work hard’.
‘Chotto Desh’ by Akram Khan featuring Nicholas Ricchini and Dennis Alamonos from Thursday, October 18-20, (1.30pm/10.30pm) Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Ave, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4TN
More info/booking: https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2018/akram-khan-company-chotto-desh/
Ticket Office: +44 (0)20 7863 8000
Then US and Canada tour http://www.akramkhancompany.net/whats-on/?