March 7 2016
Akram Khan is a dancer and choreographer of world reknown and the man behind a section of the London 2012 opening Olympic Games ceremony – in a revival of one of his early works, he brings together dance, intellectual curiousity and two other special artists from music and sculpture to produce something quite dazzling…
BEFORE language we must have had a way of communicating and expressing our feelings – dance undoubtedly relates to all that.
Akram Khan Company’s recreation of “Kaash”, his original and first choreographed work in 2002, and performed for three nights at Sadler’s Wells and ending on Saturday (March 5), reminds one just how deep and visceral dance can be.
It isn’t about anything in an obvious way – ‘Kaash’, in Hindi means ‘what if…’
What if we didn’t have language? Or we were not able to actually converse with one another – some repressive regimes come very close to implementing this. Then what?
While these are some of the personal questions triggered by “Kaash”- the creators have something else in mind too.
The dancers are spectacular and the speed and rapidness of movement is something that can only be admired, as is the interplay between Kathak (more below on this) contemporary dance forms.
Kristina and Sadé Alleyne, twin sisters, have performed for Akram Khan Company (AKC) before. Kristina for the London Olympic Ceremony, Khan choreographed in 2012; while Sadé is a former athlete; Sarah Cerneaux originates from La Réunion Island and changed careers, switching from computers to dance, joining AKC in 2014. Nicola Monaco is Italian and was most recently a guest dance teacher at the University of Malta, before working with AKC.
Perhaps special mention should go to South Korean Sung Hoon Kim, whose finale solo turn hints strongly that we may have had an amphibian past somewhere in our history.
Behind them are producers of different nationalities too – the language of dance is universal and multicultural, even if the central ideas may have sprung from the subcontinent a long time ago.
In this production the music is provided by Nitin Sawhney, a considerable name now, but still very much making his way in 2002.
The set is designed by Anish Kapoor, probably among a handful of artists the general public might recognise in name at least these days – he designed the Olympic Orbit Tower and his outdoor exhibits (by special invitation) last year at the Palace of Versailles caused controversy because he referred to them as ladies’ privates.
This amazing trio come to bring all their intellectual gifts and artistry to “Kaash” – and the popularity of these shows – completely sold out – also illustrate the high regard in which this production is held.
The fact that it is essentially at the home of English dance and where Khan is Associate Artist also have some bearing, one assumes.
It’s hard to be descriptive about a work that essentially appeals to the senses and the moment in time.
Trained in Kathak, an Indian classical dance form, since the age of seven, Khan in 2002, was a solo artist blending this with more contemporary styles.
He was practically the first person in the world to be doing this – at least at such a level.
It became his unique signature and the fact that he is a dancer of exceptional range and agility meant his work travelled further and engaged others around the world too.
Working with musician Sawhney for the first time in 2000 on “Fix”, the two had come to discuss Hindu mythology and its relation to theoretical physics.
At its heart, Khan presupposes questions that emerge from books such as Indologist Amaury de Riencourt’s “The Eye of Shiva” and quantum physicist David Deutsch’s “The Fabric of Reality”.
In these works, linked to Hindu cosmology, was the idea that every time you made a decision the universe splits into different versions of itself – in Sawhney’s own words reprinted and explained in the “Kaash” programme: “There’s an infinite number of parallel universes that coexist at any given moment of observations or decisions.”
Infinite choices, infinite realities – do we not feel like that when we look at our smart phones??
Added to this is the figure of Shiva, sometimes depicted with many arms and in classical Hindu theology, regarded as both creator and destroyer.
He is also ‘The Lord of the Dance’ (depicted as Natraj) in Hindu iconography.
Essentially, then “Kaash” is about creation and destruction – it is mesmerising, haunting, unforgettable, easy on the eye and ear, but also slightly baffling, difficult to interpret and not easy to define or describe.
In the end, it’s a visceral reaction to what is presented and in an age when so much is automated or digitised, it reminds us that the human form is expressive and noble, and more brilliant than anything else we have at our disposal.
ACV rating:**** (out of five)
All pictures: Louis Fernandez
‘Kaash’ goes on tour both in the UK – Bath and Poole, and globally, check programme dates from March 11 (Bahrain) and in the UK again, from March 22 (Bath) http://www.akramkhancompany.net/productions/kaash/