Posted: May 29th, 2016 | Author: Ian Abbott | Filed under: Performance | Tags: 16+ a room, Ballet BC, Bill, Crystal Pite, Emily Molnar, Gai Behar, International Dance Festival Birmingham, Sharon Eyal, Solo Echo | Comments Off on Ballet BC, Birmingham Hippodrome
Ballet BC, Birmingham Hippodrome, May 20
Artists of Ballet BC in Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo (photo: Michael Slobodian)
Without the fanfare and hoopla that surrounded the recent English National Ballet all-female triple bill, She Said, it is testament to Ballet BC and International Dance Festival Birmingham that female choreographers are not a scarcity in either the former nor the latter. With this being the only UK date, a premiere and the debate around non-male choreographers, I don’t understand why “the national critics” weren’t present, choosing to review NDT2 and Northern Ballet instead.
As part of #TheBENCH, an event and wider choreographic support programme designed by 2Faced Dance Company to address the gender inequality in UK contemporary dance, Ballet BC’s Artistic Director Emily Molnar was invited to speak and offer an international perspective. With integrity, sense and articulate coherence in spades she responded and mentioned to the crowd that the company would be performing a programme of Crystal Pite, Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar as well as one of her own works. After seeing Eyal and Behar’s most recent commission on Scottish Dance Theatre earlier in the year and the fervour surrounding Crystal Pite’s forthcoming work on a series of national companies including Scottish Ballet, it was impossible not to be curious.
“One’s action ought to come out of an achieved stillness: not to be a mere rushing on.”- D.H. Lawrence
Molnar’s work that premiered in 2013, 16+ a room, opened the evening. Riddled with detail, pace and luxurious unfurlings of time alongside a repeated slow and knowing presence of a stage walker who held a sign that read ‘This Is A Beginning’ or ‘This Is Not An End’, Molnar accentuated the visibility of time and allowed us to see all the full stops on stage. Almost imperceptible tremors in the bodies floated to the surface in the not quite stillness emphasising the control and fizz of the 16 company dancers. Building entrances and exits into the choreography nothing was wasted whilst oscillating between large packs of movement and intimate duets the piece became structurally familiar but no less impressive. With a lighting design like spots on a domino and an electric rasping soundtrack suiting the crispness of the taut choreographic vocabulary and Molnar’s staccato sock-sliding lunges and pulses 16+A Room was a satisfying start to proceedings.
“When you acknowledge the integrity of your solitude, and settle into its mystery, your relationships with others take on a new warmth, adventure and wonder.” – John O’Donohue
Pite’s Solo Echo left an emotional residue that I’ve only felt after watching the 1953 film Tokyo Story by Yasujirô Ozu. Both are a study of human connections, regret, present echoes and anticipation whilst leaving time for it to settle inside you. With an upstage set design of a constant drop of either snow, petals or sawdust and a sweeping piano and string soundtrack, I read Japanese cherry blossom in the spring, a time for renewal and rituals which were also present in the choreography. A recurring motif of the frozen run, giving space and a softness that supports others, showcased alternative qualities in seven dancers and their ability to connect with the audience and their material. Solo Echo has an emotional sting that remained inside the body long after the curtain had dropped.
“There is no such thing as a life of passion any more than a continuous earthquake, or an eternal fever.” – Lord Byron
Bill is my second live encounter with an Eyal and Behar choreography. Here they remould bodies through anatomical adventures. We see the same limbs and torsos used by Molnar and Pite, yet the angles are skewed, bodies inverted and are presented with a fevered ballet and jelly-legged solos. The stage is flooded with choreography for 22 minutes; patterns of repetitive walking and clockwise rocking provide mesmeric satisfaction mixed with the occasional choreographic burst that is reminiscent of a 90s WWF move by The Bushwhackers beating their arms to a wide invisible drum. They enable the dancers to command the stage with a cat-walking focus whilst conveying the rapturous joy of movement. There’s a depth of field in play, real care for the scenography and texture of the world and a constant eye on the end; Eyal and Behar are always building, always layering and always in control of our gaze. There are echoes of Hofesh Shechter in as much as Eyal and Behar, like Shechter, have the ability to be 1% different, which sets them aside choreographically and spawns a band of imitators. Their craft is a pleasure to revel in.
The construction of triple bills is a delicate game; wanting to build progressively but not drown and leave an audience with an emotional unevenness. Ballet BC’s triple bill was pitched well with an appetising opener, rich and complex main and a finale with all the trimmings and flourishes; here’s a company that has developed a repertoire of more than 35 works since 2009, from William Forsythe to Aszure Barton, and is actively collaborating with The National Ballet of Canada and Frankfurt Ballet to support artists, choreographers and audiences alike. Imagine if British companies would do the same.
Posted: May 26th, 2016 | Author: Ian Abbott | Filed under: Festival | Tags: Navadisha 2016 | Comments Off on Navadisha 2016
Navadisha 2016, mac, Birmingham, May 20-22
Kesha Raithatha (photo: Ian Abbott)
“Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society.” – Michel Foucault
Navadisha 2016 was a three-day conference produced by Anita Srivastava and co-produced by Piali Ray that sought “to stimulate, steer and secure the future of South Asian Dance as part of UK’s ever growing dance landscape”. The Navadisha team, with Chitra Sundaram acting as conference moderator and lead consultant, curated over 65 presenters and more than 20 performances attracting over 200 UK and international delegates who were ready to celebrate and deliberate new dynamics in South Asian dance.
It has been over 16 years since the last Navadisha when a young Akram Khan and Mavin Khoo presented their duet No Male Egos; Navadisha 2016 opened with a specially commissioned duet from Connor Scott (BBC Young Dancer 2015 winner) and Vidya Patel (BBC Young Dancer 2015 finalist) who jointly choreographed a light 5-minute work in a mere eight hours. Khan, Khoo and Shobana Jeyasingh each offered a keynote provocation and while Khan struggled with definition — “What the fuck is South Asian dance? I don’t know how to define it…” — Jeyasingh offered an arresting, personal and insightful response touching on pertinent issues: “Dance as a noble hobby”, and with respect to the classical and contemporary debate, “we share common soil, common roots and common sustenance.”
Over the course of the event there were some luminous contributions from individuals who articulated an alternative approach to, and use of, classical dance forms whilst demonstrating an integrity within their own practice:
Subathra Subramanium (Sadhana Dance) explored the rigour and collaborative process between bharatanatyam and science, charting expeditions to the Arctic Circle with audiences of bearded seals and walruses to the surgical precision of the operating theatre and identifying a shared dexterity between classical dancers and surgeons.
Hari Krishnan (inDance) offered a queer narrative and perspective from his practice as a choreographer. Presenting nudity, sexuality and intimate touch in and to this community is a radical act and I’d like to see other LGBTQ+ artists offered the chance to engage and contribute to this dialogue.
Lina Johansson (mimbre) presented insight and advice on how her company creates work for outdoor settings, recognising that audiences can begin to watch a piece at any moment and often wander off if their attention drops. She aims to craft work to capture and retain a diversity of ages.
Shalini Bhalla (Just Jhoom) opened a vital dialogue (often ignored in South Asian communities) around issues of mental health and depression. She shared her story of hospitalisation and of using the healing power of her dance practice to train over 250 instructors across the UK to teach the fitness and bollywood hybrid, Just Jhoom. She recognised the social value, community and friendship that comes from participants dancing together in class in a familiar environment.
Nova Bhattacharya (Nova Dance) offered an international perspective and was frustrated with the “fucking monochromatic viewpoint” in both the dominance and assimilation of American modern dance and European aesthetics into the Canadian dance ecology, and passionately advocated for a palette of voices and forms to be represented.
However, in a set of panels (often with 7, 8 and 9 people each having three minutes to speak in the 60-minute sessions) there was a lack of coherence and audience consideration mixed with a multitude of surface statements and extensive personal biographies. Many of the flooded panels had insufficient time and/or were poorly moderated, not allowing questions and response from the audience. With such an international panel of delegates, rich with experience and insight, the opportunity to engage in a rigorous debate was missed. There was little visible thread between the speakers whose consistent mode was that of broadcasting rather than listening and responding to peers.
“Creativity cannot be held within the confines of history. It needs to be honestly and harmoniously allowed to reinvent.” Aditi Mangaldas
There were nearly 15 panels across the three days, looking at: Changing lives / Inspiring Stories, New Narratives / New Perspectives, Professional development, mentoring and career progression, but one that stood out in the language used to describe it was: “Stars in our eyes: Part 1 – The Performer’s Perspective.” Five stellar and compelling performers from a range of South Asian dance practices (Aakash Odedra, Amina Khayyam, Seeta Patel, Shane Shambhu and Sonia Sabri) each shared how they see it: My vision, my goals, my dreams, my challenges!
The conference team often publicly referred to this set of artists as “Gen Next” or “Young Artists”, invoking a sense of power and using a patronising tone that I found unhealthy. Patel in her three minutes offered a provocation: “It is an exciting time which shouldn’t be patronised by a reference to ourselves as orientalised, antiquated museum pieces. Whether classical or contemporised, with integrity we can reach further from existing, limiting perceptions. To artists I ask: are we perpetuating a landscape of outdated perceptions that limit who we are and can be? To the powers that be: do you want an exotic other artist or an artist whose doesn’t rely upon cultural differences to make them great?” Her comments garnered a wealth of response in the room and on the hashtag #Navadisha16.
I sensed an unspoken power, faux etiquette or, to use a term cited by Patel on day one, an invisible hand at play manifesting itself in multiple ways throughout the conference. There is an unwillingness to engage in an open dialogue as the fear of retribution is high. Julia Carruthers, Programme Director at Warwick Arts Centre, in the Venue, Producer and Promoter panel called on the “aunty” or “akka” generation to move on and make way for new voices and new leaders. Anusha Subramanyam, Artistic Director of Beeja, in the How dance is enhancing people’s lives panel spoke of her frustration at the disparaging attitude towards her work as a choreographer working with young people with disabilities, in communities and other contexts.
Over the last three years I’ve experienced, led, partnered and convened a number of dance conferences, symposia, festivals and gatherings in different styles including: Association of Dance of the African Disapora’s Re:generations 2014, the Integrated Summit, Btown Throwdown and South Asian Dance Summit at Pavilion Dance South West as well as DanceLive15, Buzzcut and Rise 2016 in Scotland. Common threads across these events were: a sense of care for the artist and audience, providing a space for difference and the removal of ego for the greater good. Within Navadisha 2016 there was an invisible simmering and Kav Kaushik paraphrased Game of Thrones: “Winter is coming and the kingdom is focused on civil war.”
“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.” – N R Narayana Murthy
Throughout the conference there were a number of felicitations paying respect to pioneers in the field, from Naseem Khan OBE (on the 40th anniversary of her ground-breaking report, The Arts Britain Ignores) to Pratap Pawar, Pushkala Gopal and Nahid Siddiqui, three dance artists who inspired generations of students, dancers and teachers in the UK. Alongside this formal recognition a number of new ventures from Leena Patel, Kamala Devam, Shane Shambhu were publicly launched in front of a rich and illustrious makeup of guru’s and industry powers which felt a generous and unique celebration introduced by those further along in their career trajectory.
As part of the conference and in partnership with International Dance Festival Birmingham there were a number of full-length performances and excerpts across the three days. Highlights came from Sooraj Subramaniam, whose classical Odissi was an elegant and emotive solo; Kesha Raithatha, who has been working with Eva Recacha, presented a taut Kathak-inspired contemporary work which would sit well in most small-scale dance houses across the UK and Hembharathy Palani’s Twine, bathed in a Tizer-lit haze, was a meditative trio on the notion of slowing down.
I noticed that some things were missing from the conference: there was no voice of young people or a young presence on the education panel and yet we saw groups from the ISTD or Centre for Advanced Dance Training perform on stage. There was no authentic voice of what it is like to go through and experience these systems; their voice was muted. There was no discussion about music, its relationship to dance and how it is fundamental not only to the teaching but also to the presentation of the classical forms. The relationship between guru and student would have been a ripe arena to explore, looking at reverence and power dynamics between two people. The majority of National Dance Network members were not present and those who were appeared only on days they were on a panel; Paul Russ, CEO and Artistic Director of Dance 4, admitted, “The unconscious bias needs to be acknowledged.” If the dance houses and dance development organisations who programme and support artists choose not to attend and engage against the backdrop of Arts Council England’s Creative Case for Diversity and the monochromatic male leadership of dance organisations, both their own palette and that of their audiences are given little chance to broaden; the unconscious bias will remain until the “uncles” are removed.
In the closing plenary, “The Conference” (without consultation or engagement with delegates) made a series of recommendations: the need for further round table discussions; not waiting 16 years until the next event; passing the baton onto “gen next” and encouraging them to lead on the next Navadisha, and for venues to present more classical and contemporary Indian work across the UK. This was a very public offer and challenge to the “young artists” to create and mould the structures and opportunities to reflect the landscape they wish to engage with. If this is a ceding of power and relevance then I look forward to what the future holds as there are articulate, rigorous and original voices that have been constrained by power politics within the classical Indian dance ecology.
Posted: May 26th, 2016 | Author: Nicholas Minns | Filed under: Festival | Tags: Costa Contemporánea, Elias Aguirre, Irene de Paz, La Madeja, Longfade, Nicolas Rambaud, ¡Valgo? | Comments Off on Costa Contemporánea 2015, Day 2
Costa Contemporánea, Day 2, Anfiteatro Rodalquilar, September 3
Irene de Paz in Madejda (photo: Carlos de Paz)
This is the second instalment of a set of reviews from last year’s Costa Contemporánea. I had started it but never got around to finishing it. Re-reading my notes I feel I am back in the amphitheatre at Rodalquilar…
After the opening night, the three subsequent days of performances at Costa Contemporánea have a strong theme of physical theatre. Each performance is a unique take on the body as both image and instrument with an ecstatic fluid line that permeates the body mass. Irene de Paz is a circus artist, a tightrope walker with strong features and a bright smile that remains from beginning to end like an optimist who never gives up. The gusts of wind blowing through the amphitheatre would be enough to put off any funambulist but the smile persists and the performance of La Madeja proceeds, involving yards of red yarn in which de Paz ties and unties herself while walking back and forth or on the rope. The link between the tightrope and the yarn is not accidental; equating the knotting of woven cloth to the vital knots of her profession, De Paz dedicates La Madeja to those women weavers who saw their days pass while knotting threads. Furthermore, the funambulist and the weaver become metaphors for life: finding balance, taking steps back in order to move forward and resolving intricate problems. Her first step on the wire is entangled in yarn and by her last one she is free of obstructions. But during the performance De Paz seems to be fighting the elemental force of nature that is far more unpredictable; lightness and poise are at risk, even though the smile never fails.
I had seen Elias Aguirre dance a duet in Turin that took inspiration from the characteristics of insects. Aguirre’s control over his articulate body is prodigious and he turned it into a fascinating play of volume, line and space. He finds unusual states of being to portray — neither conceptual nor exaggerated — that lend themselves to his form of expression. In Longfade he inhabits a body that has been poisoned but is in the process of resisting the poison until it runs its course: the long fade to extinction. Facing his crisis in spatial terms, Aguirre is eloquent in movement: short phrases, silences, internal questioning, and hasty decisions connected in an overall arc of meaning. He takes his imbalance to extremes but always finds his equilibrium quietly and seductively. His face is intimately involved in his actions, giving an impression of carrying on a dialogue with the audience, or reading us a story in movement. Longfade is not a work with a beginning or end, but like a fragment it emerges into the light and disappears enigmatically leaving behind an extraordinary sensory trail.
Because of the rising wind outside, Nicolas Rambaud moves his production of ¡Valgo? to a spacious hall behind the amphitheatre where we sit on the floor. The work, whose title translates as What am I worth?, is a polemic about the value and self-worth of artists. It is a duet for Rambaud and a filmed alter-ego who is projected onto a fragile, tent-like screen and with whom Rambaud pursues a contentious dialogue. Rambaud is no wallflower and enjoys the role of demagogue; he also enjoys being outrageous. Since I don’t understand Spanish I have an hour to watch him rant in speech and dance, stripping down from blue overalls to his essentials and high heels and spraying sarcasm from an industrial crop sprayer strapped to his back. If Rambaud wants to draw attention to the value of the artist, he succeeds more successfully — from a purely physical perspective — to draw attention to himself: L’artiste, c’est moi. What is interesting, too, is that in the context of the contemporary Spanish dance at Costa Contemporanea there is a didactic quality in Rambaud’s work: an intellectual concept dressed in the physical. By contrast, and in simplistic terms, the Spanish contemporary dance I have seen is primarily physical with an inherent intelligence.
Posted: May 25th, 2016 | Author: Nicholas Minns | Filed under: Performance | Tags: Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Cecilia Lisa Eliceche, Eveline Van Bauwel, Manon Santkin, Michael Helland, Unison | Comments Off on Cecilia Lisa Eliceche, Unison
Cecilia Lisa Eliceche, Unison, Lilian Baylis, May 7
Eveline Van Bauwel, Cecilia Lisa Eliceche, Michael Helland and Manon Santkin in Unison (photo: Foteini Christofilopoulou)
“The frontier between the social and the political is essentially unstable and requires constant displacements and renegotiations between social agents.” – Chantal Mouffe, On the Political
There is something mischievous in the way Cecilia Lisa Eliceche meets the gaze of the audience around her in the Lilian Baylis studio; it’s a cross between intense and ludic and it informs the way she choreographs. Set on four dancers (Eliceche, Michael Helland, Manon Santkin, and Eveline Van Bauwel), her most recent work, Unison, distils the attraction of dance into its component elements of movement, pattern and rhythm in search of the nature of unison. Eliceche costumes her dancers in flesh-coloured unitards to emphasize their bodies as instruments of her choreographic exploration without signifying any particular genre.
The performance starts with a bare stage and the sound of a riotous celebration from one corner, beyond the wings. The celebration moves in silence to another corner where we hear it again, like an early display of stereo. Eliceche studied at the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios in Brussels and the influence of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s uncompromising stagecraft and intellectual rigour is evident. A curtain parts and the performers step through in their body suits with strings of South American folkloric chas chas (lamb hooves sewn on to fabric strips) stuck on various parts of their anatomy. They arrange themselves haphazardly in different areas of the space facing different ways and begin the first exercise in unison. Since they cannot see each other and the movements are silent, there is a contradiction between the intent of the choreography and its realisation; while aspiring to unison, the dancers never quite achieve it. This contradiction will remain at the heart of Eliceche’s exploration and define its choreographic form.
When Helland takes off his chas chas and begins a classical port de bras sequence in the centre of the space, the three others watch. It is a four-phrase moving sequence that he performs to all four directions of the audience, but as the other dancers join in, repeating the sequence in opposing and complementary directions, the classical idea of unison is, despite the form, elusive. In its place is a sinuous weaving of patterns that requires a sophisticated spatial awareness, but even this breaks down when the quartet becomes so interlocked it gets stuck in a corner; there’s no room to manoeuvre so the dancers regroup to set off again. It all seems part of the game as they check with each other which course to set. Unison starts to look more like a choreographic argument than an exposition of a concept even if choreography does not have the same clarity as thought. Nevertheless dance has its own intelligence and Eliceche is experimenting to find out how she can employ it.
A third section sees the quartet moving through a similar set of phrases but to a faster tempo with an accumulation of new material. The voice, like a child’s rendering of a steam engine, is brought into the equation as accompaniment and when the movement stops it is the breath that continues in unison. Here is the first statement by Eliceche of what unison might be rather than what it might not be. A fourth section reimagines unison by introducing contact improvisation. It is the first time the dancers connect with each other, fitting like puzzles within and around each other in dynamic sculptural forms that can at any time fall apart and be refashioned. The quartet takes their sculptural improvisation up the railing of the staircase like naughty children in a playground, but never abandon their choreographic task. A brief pause to drink some water suggests another sense of being together. The quartet put on their chas chas again to start a rhythmic sequence of phrases based on the initial sequence, using clapping and voice to further enhance the folk rhythm. They regroup, standing on one leg like herons, bending their upper body lower until they succumb to gravity and slowly unravel to the floor, redefining once more the boundaries of how they relate to each other. A final sequence takes up the opening phrases like a musical recapitulation: the turning bodies with outstretched arms that continue into the darkness.
There is clearly a lot more to Cecilia Lisa Eliceche’s Unison than meets the eye. It is a refreshing observation on dance, connecting many sources into one manifestation. It is messy in the way life refuses to conform to intellectual concepts but it’s also a social construct if you can unravel watching dance from socio-political theory. The above quote from Chantal Mouffe appears in the extensive program notes to the performance and it is not difficult to see a metaphor for Mouffe’s assertion in the way the dancers negotiate spatially. There is also a long essay by Belgian socio-theorist Rudi Laermans titled, ‘Being in Unison: Being in Common.’ Laermans references Eliceche’s work by answering the question, ‘What does the idea of unison actually suggest or imply, not only as a choreographic tool but also from a wider cultural or socio-political point of view?’ The essay provides an insight into the broad-ranging mind of Eliceche, into her choreographic processes and deconstructs the work itself. Laermans’ writing and Eliceche’s choreography form a powerful package, even if the former is not immediately evident in the latter. Tired of seeing the glossy productions of new work that serve to reinforce the singular idea of dance as sophisticated technique in the service of pre-conceptual amusement, Unison is a salutary and gutsy reminder of just how intelligent dance can be.
Posted: May 20th, 2016 | Author: Nicholas Minns | Filed under: Performance | Tags: Casson & Friends, Connor Quill, Dougie Evans, Hannah Sampson, Helen Scarlett-O'Neil, Nadenh Poan, Stopgap Dance Company, Tim Casson, Tim van Eyken, Valentina Golfieri | Comments Off on Casson & Friends and Stopgap Dance Company, Night at the Theatre
Casson & Friends and Stopgap Dance Company, Night At The Theatre, Rich Mix, April 24
Nadenh Poan, Hannah Sampson and Connor Quill in Night at the Theatre (photo: Camilla Greenwell)
Rather than contain his work within the confines of a theatre Tim Casson usually brings theatre into places that are essentially porous: think hotel, office, pub, or the street. This goes hand in hand with his method of gathering material: anonymous anecdotes from the hotel industry (Selling Secrets Part 1), public houses (Selling Secrets Part 2), office culture (Selling Secrets Part 3) and stories directed through the Royal Mail (Choreospondance). He has also worked directly with the public in outdoor spaces (Dances We Made). So finding Casson making work in a theatre is a new experience on unfamiliar ground. Night at the Theatre is aimed at children of all ages; gone are the adult themes and sardonic humour of the Selling Secrets trilogy and in their place is a complex plot within a plot within a plot that retains elements of Dances We Made. Casson has created a hybrid story that has the wit of the physical and the playfulness of the imagination, a brand of theatre that comes from the heart as well as the head. There is no gearing down for a young audience and the three protagonists — Connor Quill (just up from the mine in COAL) and Stopgap Dance Company’s Nadenh Poan and Hannah Sampson — know exactly how to stir up creative trouble.
‘When three characters discover a theatre, little do they know that they will soon become the stars of their own show.’ Although it takes place in Venue 1 at Rich Mix, Helen Scarlett-O’Neill transforms the stage into a backstage prop room. The three intruders are seen peering through a gauze window next to a high brick wall at the back and it is not long before Casson has his Pina Bausch moment and the wall comes tumbling down with Sampson leading Quill over the cardboard rubble. Clearing the way for Poan’s wheelchair, the trio explores the dusty props: boxes of dresses (all costumes by Valentina Golfieri), masks, and assorted theatrical paraphernalia. Quill finds a megaphone and interrupts Sampson’s reverie over a yellow dress; she is not amused. He then messes around with Poan until they find a pair of partially covered legs. A dead body? Sampson approaches cautiously and in the suspense Poan sneezes. Unfazed, Sampson uncovers the rest of a doll but in the process reveals a horse’s head than neighs loudly. She faints.
This is just the preamble before the plot unfolds in earnest. Casson has a mischievous sense of humour (as do his collaborators) that blends in well with the wide-eyed expectations of the children in the audience. Quill asks a young girl in the front row how she is and then innocently, ‘Why are you here?’ ‘To see a show,’ she replies. Brilliant idea. Quill suggests to Poan and Sampson that they do the same. They sit and watch the audience watching them and match their tics and gestures. Giggles of laughter. Then a phone rings; Quill finds it among the props and answers. It’s the voice of the theatre’s director (Tim Van Eyken); he has only a moment to explain his concept for the show he wants to make and before Quill can demur, the director clicks off. It’s fight or flight and the desire to create a show wins out over scuttling back over the rubble and escaping. The director wants a prince, a princess and a wizard. Dougie Evan’s choice of Prokofiev’s scores for Romeo and Juliet and Peter and the Wolf create an appropriate score of romance and headstrong ingenuity as the three set about deciding their roles and what to choreograph. Inspired by the infectious make-believe of the props they battle with paintbrushes and dusters, cross dress, and perform a trio of arms and torsos. Poan does wheelie pirouettes, Sampson and Quill dance a duet in which she perches on his feet, Sampson starts to seriously groove in a dance of her own, and Poan acts as a DJ on a turntable suitcase. The three are choreographing up a storm and in their enthusiasm miss another call from the director, who leaves a message: he wants a grand finale with 100 extras on stage. That’s 97 additional performers. Quill counts the audience. You know what’s coming. The grand finale becomes Casson’s trademark use of choreographic transmission in which we are all encouraged to make movement phrases that we perform in our seats.
Casson is essentially a choreographic provocateur in the way he blurs the distinction between audience and performer by combining or inverting the two. Night at the Theatre works on both levels, giving young audiences a chance to enter into the ludic nature of theatre with the courage to indulge their natural predilection for combining movement and words. And Poan, Quill and Sampson are ideal kindred spirits.
Posted: May 17th, 2016 | Author: Nicholas Minns | Filed under: Performance | Tags: Company Chordelia, Darren Brownlie, James Bryce, Janis Hart, Jesse Godolphin, Kally Lloyd-Jones, Kyril FitzLyon, Laura Hawkins, Michael Daviot, North Wall Arts Centre, Vaslav Nijinsky | Comments Off on Company Chordelia, Nijinsky’s Last Jump
Company Chordelia Dance Theatre, Nijinsky’s Last Jump, The North Wall, Oxford, May 4
Darren Brownlie, Petrushka and James Bryce in Nijinsky’s Last Jump (photo: Maria Falconer)
Vaslav Nijinsky’s jump was legendary. Asked to describe how he managed to jump so high he is reported to have said, ‘It’s easy. You go up and then pause a little up there.’ The only known visual evidence of Nijinsky’s dancing is contained in some extraordinary photographs taken at the height of his dancing career between 1909 and 1913 which dance critic Edwin Denby wrote, ‘in their stillness…have more vitality than the dances they remind us of…’ They also speak of a quality the artist Alexandre Benois evinces in his memoirs: having described Nijinsky as ‘of uninteresting appearance, rather short of stature with a thick neck and a large head’, he went on to write that ‘having put on the costume, he gradually began to change into another being, the one he saw in the mirror. He became reincarnated and actually entered into his new existence, as an exceptionally attractive and poetical personality.’ Evidently these photographs, and the personality portrayed in them, hold a powerful fascination for Company Chordelia’s artistic director, Kally Lloyd-Jones; Nijinsky’s Last Jump is her response.
Much has been written about and much edited out of Nijinsky’s stage life and his relations with others — notably with Serge Diaghilev and with his wife Romola — but Lloyd-Jones has set out to reveal Nijinsky in his own right. In 1919, at the age of 29, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and in the same year he wrote a diary over a six-week period that has become the only window into his inner life at the time. It was first published in 1936 in his wife’s carefully edited version, but in 1999 the original unexpurgated text was translated by Kyril FitzLyon. It is this version that informs Michael Daviot’s text for Nijinsky’s Last Jump which Lloyd-Jones has directed and choreographed. Following his diagnosis, Nijinsky lived another 30 years in the shadow of his fame, never again dancing in public and at the mercy of early 20th-century understanding and treatment of his disorder. Lloyd-Jones can’t resist the temptation to wonder what might have happened if schizophrenia had been better understood in 1919. Nijinsky’s Last Jump imagines a lucid dialogue between Old Nijinsky (James Bryce) and Young Nijinsky (Darren Brownlie) in which the two halves of a life divided by illness are reunited.
The only occasion in the south of England to see this work is at the North Wall Arts Centre in Oxford. Given that Judith Mackrell ranked it fifth in her top ten dance works of 2015, it’s a mystery why Nijinsky’s Last Jump has not been invited to London (8 of her 10 choices were seen there). Kudos to North Wall. It’s a lovely theatre, too, with a seating capacity of 200 and its stage tonight has, thanks to set designer Janis Hart and lighting designer Laura Hawkins, become Nijinsky’s dressing room with a table loaded with bouquets of flowers and a mirror that together suggest a shrine. A screen in one corner is the changing area (rather improbably with Nijinsky’s name stencilled on it) and in the opposite corner is another screen reminiscent of a hospital bay. A Petrushka puppet (courtesy of Janis Hart) is draped on a chair. Seated next to the puppet Bryce, in a convincingly Slavic accent, introduces an anecdote about the origins of his famous jump while we hear the latter part of a performance of Le Spectre de la Rose taking place beyond the wings. All we see of the famous final jump is Brownlie landing in a heap on his dressing room floor, breathing heavily. Bryce becomes the regisseur, getting the younger dancer wiped down with a towel and returning him to the stage to acknowledge the rapturous applause (recorded as part of the sound design by Jesse Godolphin). Seated once again, Bryce talks dispassionately of his early preoccupation with masturbation. This is one of the details Romola had excised from the original diary, but its inclusion here not only allows Nijinsky to unashamedly confess his former sexual proclivities but alludes directly to the suggestive final pose of his first choreography, L’Après-midi d’un Faune (‘The Faun,’ he wrote, ‘is me.’). This clever cross-referencing in text and details is key to the richness of Nijinsky’s Last Jump and while Lloyd-Jones mines the roles of Nijinsky to find the person, she wisely avoids any attempt to find the dancer: Brownlie warms up in the dressing room but Nijinsky’s stage performances remain beyond the wings in our imagination.
Bryce and Brownlie form an affecting partnership. Bryce is like a saint who has suffered much, who has arrived at a level of philosophical resignation 30 years ahead of Brownlie; he is thus in a position to comfort him, to encourage him on the journey he is about to take: that long, lonely final jump from worldly fame to enduring myth. The historical and psychological details in Nijinsky’s Last Jump are extensive and interlinked, but while forming an intelligent matrix of meaning, they rely perhaps too much on prior knowledge of the subject to be fully appreciated. A little more in the way of program notes may help to identify the context and some aspects of Nijinsky for those who don’t know a lot about him; without them the detailed cross-references may lose their significance, seem abstruse or simply mystifying. Without a knowledge of the respective ballets, what to make of Brownlie’s landing from the wings, or of Bryce placing Brownlie’s body in the sideways, two-dimensional forms of Faune that were so revolutionary at the time? Or of the re-enactment of Nijinsky’s role as the hapless doll in Petrushka by dancing the puppet in front of a hospital screen? And if the story of the opening night of Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring is unknown, how would Brownlie’s screaming of the musical counts from the wings relate to Bryce’s reading of the reviews afterwards? I am not sure. Nijinsky has been an inspiration for many years and I have read enough to enjoy the density of Nijinsky’s Last Jump, but I was not aware of the extent of Nijinsky’s shock therapy. When Lloyd-Jones has Bryce list the concoction of medications Nijinsky was administered for his schizophrenia — it is long and ends with 228 insulin-induced comas — with the horrendous effects, she takes on the additional role of advocate. At the same time old Nijinsky is in a position to gently guide his younger self to a calm acceptance of his fate in the conviction that their inner life remains intact. So for me it is poignant to see a play about Nijinsky that makes his own voice its subject and, as Lloyd-Jones writes, ‘honours a human being who clearly continues to touch the hearts of many.’
Posted: May 12th, 2016 | Author: Nicholas Minns | Filed under: Performance | Tags: Cloudgate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Hermann Hesse, Ko Wan-chun, Lee Hwai-min, Lin Hsin-fang, Siddhartha, Songs of the Wanderers, Wang Rong-ji, Wang Wei-min | Comments Off on Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Songs of the Wanderers
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Songs of the Wanderers, Sadler’s Wells, May 7
The final pattern of Songs of the Wanderers (photo: Yu-Hui-hung)
A monk in white robes standing motionless on stage for seventy minutes under a steady stream of falling rice is a powerful image of stoicism, concentration, and meditative self-control. Wang Rong-ji’s presence in Cloud Gate’s Songs of the Wanderers is an indication not only of the spiritual nature of the work but counterintuitively of the quality of its movement. We don’t see him move until he re-enters the stage to take his bow but his modest gesture of outstretched arms to acknowledge the applause gives the impression of pure spirit, of a body that has no apparent weight or strength. It is a gesture that defines movement by its absence of physical intent and, in diverting attention away from the body, focuses on the spiritual aspect of being. This is central to Lin Hwai-min’s conception of Songs of the Wanderers, which he created following a pilgrimage to Bodhgaya in India where Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree. As Lin Hwai-min describes, “I sat quietly under the bodhi tree, shoulder to shoulder with the monks. I opened my eyes, and saw sunlight coming from the top of the stupa through the branches to land directly on my forehead. My heart became full of joy; I felt a quietude that I had never experienced.”
Songs of the Wanderers is also inspired by Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, a novel set in India about a young man who leaves home in search of enlightenment; the meandering river of golden rice we see on stage at the beginning of Songs of Wanderers suggests the river that both physically and metaphorically led Siddhartha from illusion to enlightenment.
The wanderers of Lin Hwai-min’s Songs emerge from behind the dark backcloth and drift towards the river with tall staffs cut from forest branches. The monk is on the opposite shore under the cascading rice: set designer Austin M.C. Wang has thus created two rivers, one vertical and one horizontal. In Hesse’s novel Siddhartha annihilates the contradictions in words and thoughts, seeing the oneness in the reality in and around him. In the same way, Cloud Gate’s community of wanderers gradually removes the obstacle of the river by dissolving its banks: they pick up the rice to let it slip through their fingers, spread it with the force of their bodies in a series of tableaux and release handfuls high into the air. Rice also rains in intervals like a monsoon until the entire stage is covered, merging the two rivers into one. Songs of Wanderers is thus not so much a narrative as a journey in which the seeking spirit of the wanderers aspires to the spiritual influence of the monk. The opening section, called Holy River, sets the character of this journey beautifully; accompanied by a Georgian folk song recorded by Rustavi Choir, the dancers move with calm control, quietly advancing to the river, the uprights of their staffs contrasting with the smoothness of their slow, meandering paths. Out of this meditative prelude that blurs time and space, Lin Hwai-min’s choreography takes a more structured form, weaving ensemble and soloists (Ko Wan-chun and Wang Wei-min) in formal sections with theatrical effects that remind us of space and time. The two deluges of rice are visually stunning, but the first is a device to mask the entrance of Wang Wei-ming at the beginning of his solo and the second seems to have no other function but to replenish the rice on stage. In a work where the material aspect of life slowly erodes into the immaterial, these devices jar and leave me feeling I am watching from the outside rather than participating in the journey.
Which brings me back to Wang Rong-ji. It is only when I see him move that I realise to what extent the physical body can represent the spiritual. Hesse uses the dialectic of words to point the way towards a reality that encompasses their opposition; in the physical realm, Wang-Rong-ji finds a corresponding unity between gravity and weightlessness and points to a qualitative development of movement. By contrast, the physical language of the wanderers does not develop beyond the earthy opening, suggesting a substantive divide between the physical and the spiritual; the transformative effect of their journey remains unfulfilled. Wang Rong-ji has been in the production from the beginning twenty-two years ago — Lin Hwai-min hired him specifically for the role — but the dancers in this production, apart from Wang Wei-min, are relatively new. Perhaps they are just trying too hard, like Siddhartha before he renounced his ascetic practices.
The final phase of Song of the Wanderers is the lone figure of Lin Hsin-fang meticulously raking the rice into a perfect series of concentric circles. He begins as the company takes their bows, when the concentration of the audience has already started to dissipate, and it must seem a strange ritual for those in the stalls who cannot see the pattern he is making. But in Lin Hsin-fang’s solemn, meditative gesture there is the signification of intent and, for those who can see it, the pattern he defines suggests the harmonious goal of all spiritual wandering.
Posted: May 10th, 2016 | Author: Ian Abbott | Filed under: Performance | Tags: Bloody Nora, Eleanor Sikorski, Findhorn, Flora Wellesley-Wesley, Jonathan Burrows, lizaggiss, Lizz Aggiss, Matteo Fargion, Nora, Slap and Tickle | Comments Off on Liz Aggiss, Slap and Tickle
Liz Aggiss, Slap and Tickle, Universal Hall, Findhorn, May 7
Liz Aggiss in Slap and Tickle (photo: Joe Murray)
“Undermine their pompous authority, reject their moral standards, make anarchy and disorder your trademarks. Cause as much chaos and disruption as possible but don’t let them take you ALIVE.” – Sid Vicious
Liz Aggiss was forged in the cauldron of punk and her new feminist soup, Slap and Tickle, riffs on pishy old women, yummy mummies and flagrantly tosses collapsed floors and sexual taboos out the window. ‘Tis one of the finest crafted and hilarious hours I’ve spent in a theatre.
To witness lizaggiss (the performance persona and brand) in motion is to behold an artist in complete command of her visual world. She nudges the fourth wall, gives it the glad eye, but there’s always the hint that she could demolish it if she wanted. However, it’s also a space where I feel safe as she demonstrates consideration by building the audience’s hardiness to material that some might consider a little saucy. Mining childhood songs, witty word play and music hall standards, there are enough recognisable tropes to keep us comfortable. Through the presentation of her body and what it can do, has done and might do with us watching, it enabled me to consider my own body, the stories it holds and how we look at others. Are you sitting comfortably? You shouldn’t be.
“Make them laugh, make them cry, and back to laughter. What do people go to the theatre for? An emotional exercise. I am a servant of the people. I have never forgotten that.” – Mary Pickford
Slap and Tickle is a machine gun of visual joy; no sketch, sequence or quip outstays its welcome, and mixed in with the frippery and froth are some puncturing sentences which aren’t just close to the knuckle; they’re brushing your elbow with a cheese grater. “Are there any wet women in the house tonight?” she asks with her comedic timing and technique honed during her early 80s stints in cabaret and working men’s clubs; it’s a lean, slick and impressive performance (on only its second public outing) that doesn’t let go of your eyeballs or earballs throughout.
I recognised compositional echoes from her previous stage work, The English Channel: a single microphone, a box of props, and the use of multiple costumes and her body to conceal a wunderkammer of curiosities that are revealed as the performance progresses. There’s oodles of jerky early-modernist hand gestures (in reference to a series of pioneering female inter-war choreographers) mixed with rhythmic beat-filled speech; it’s a little bit rude, a little bit anarchic and actively resists neat definition but the narrative is universal and should be celebrated: Women and their Bodies.
“If I want to define myself, I first have to say, ‘I am a woman’; all other assertions will arise from this basic truth. A man never begins by positing himself as an individual of a certain sex: that he is a man is obvious.” – Simone de Beauvoir
Slap and Tickle is presented in Findhorn as part of Rise 2016, a three-day festival of contemporary dance and performance sensitively programmed by Karl Jay-Lewin. First on the same evening’s bill are Eleanor Sikorski and Flora Wellesley Wesley, aka Nora, who present a double bill of duets by Jonathan Burrows/Matteo Fargion and Liz Aggiss. It is the first time that Bloody Nora is programmed on the same night as Slap and Tickle and it is fascinating to see the tone, scenography, language and ribaldry of Aggiss channelled through two younger female bodies. It looks like an Aggiss, spits expletives like an Aggiss and smells like an Aggiss — yet the solo body has been split and removed from the mother ship. Now we have two distilled red Aggi imps morphing their bodies, accentuating our gaze and letting us linger in the land of the uncomfortable before they “fuck you’ed” into the distance.
There are tens of millions of female bodies and minds in the world that are aged 62 and over yet in our culture they’re almost invisible. Liz Aggiss resists that invisibility and in doing so has created over the past decade a body of live, film and other work that would benefit from the focus of a festival, symposium or conference to see how the works sit alongside the wider UK ecology.
Slap and Tickle is dance/comedy/art (delete as appropriate) that makes the audience snort, howl and cackle with laughter. It’s a rich and visual collage of womanhood and even though Aggiss actively embraces the maverick tag, she’s exploring and presenting a world that every woman can relate to. Let’s have a party.
Posted: May 9th, 2016 | Author: Nicholas Minns | Filed under: Performance | Tags: Alistair Goldsmith, Charles Webber, Connor Quill, Daniel Thomas, Eleanor Perry, Gary Clarke, James Finnemore, Joss Carter, Nicolas Vendange, Ryan Dawson Laight, Steve Nallon, TC Howard | Comments Off on Gary Clarke Company, COAL
Gary Clarke Company, COAL, The Place, April 15
Gary Clarke Company in COAL (photo: Joe Armitage)
“She defined and overcame the great challenges of her age…” – David Cameron in his tribute to Margaret Thatcher in the House of Commons, April 10, 2013
“Thatcherism…reeked the most heinous, social, economic and spiritual damage on this country…” – Glenda Jackson in the House of Commons, April 10, 2013
It is an uncanny coincidence that the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike should occur at a time the current Conservative government is trying to dismantle another longstanding institution, the National Health Service. Gary Clarke’s COAL, commemorating the 1984/85 miners’ strike in choreographic form, comes as a salutary reminder of how politicians who capitalise on the self-aggrandizing belief they are ‘overcoming the challenges of (the) age’ can ruin the lives of entire communities. Clarke understands this firsthand, having been brought up in Grimethorpe, a mining town in South Yorkshire. ‘It’s deeply, deeply personal, and I just wanted to share how it felt to live through these times. How it felt then, and how it feels now as the pain, loss and division linger on in our stranded communities.’ It is memory that drives the work forward.
COAL is divided into three acts: the first is a slice of early-morning ritual in a single home that suggests the foundation of social life in a mining community. The wife (TC Howard) peels spuds in a bucket while the husband (Alistair Goldsmith) sleeps under a blanket; she is cook and feisty timekeeper, long-time lover and loyal supporter. Costume and set designer Ryan Dawson Laight takes delight in the details (Howard is reading a newspaper with the headline ‘Tory Cuts’) and Clarke fashions the spirit of comradeship in an earthy dance among the assembled miners (Goldsmith, Nicolas Vendange, James Finnemore, Joss Carter and Connor Quill) on their way to work. The second act is set underground (the pit cage and tunnels beautifully delineated in light by Charles Webber); it is a long section and full of tension. The qualities of their movement are a reflection of both the physical effort and their underground minds, a brutal existence spurred on by chalked targets, punctuated by bells and constantly threatened by hazards to limbs and lungs. It is perhaps the first time the opening movement of Beethoven’s 5th symphony has been used at the coalface and Daniel Thomas’ soundscape exaggerates the sense of pressure and confinement until we can’t take any more. Act three takes us up again into the air to the relative freedom of a social gathering, a chance to party and to relax, which is the moment Clarke introduces the figure of then prime minister Margaret Thatcher (Eleanor Perry with the voice of Steve Nallon). This is the dramatic fulcrum of the work, the moment that defines the beginning of the end. From the intimately complex social solidarity of the first two acts, Thatcher’s intervention turns the community into a toxic, socially divisive battleground with Perry prowling like a bird of prey on one side of a picket line that bears a chilling resemblance to a gallows rope.
Clarke maintains COAL is not a political work but the politics are inextricable from the story and he plays the political aspect directly to the audience. If Perry doesn’t get booed during a performance she feels she hasn’t wrung a sufficiently derisive charge from her role. This raises questions as to the exact nature of COAL. In choosing to interpret this story through the medium of dance — particularly using his five muscular, handsome dancers as interpreters — Clarke mixes a social and political polemic with a soft image; he has us bathe in the action until we are as helpless in the face of fate as the miners with whom he is siding. The form of COAL thus straddles the tragedy of a community and an epic story of resistance, but in pointing the finger at Thatcher we collectively miss the opportunity to challenge our readiness to fight such injustices in the future. As Ernst Fischer wrote in The Necessity of Art when discussing Berthold Brecht’s use of emotional detachment to appeal to audiences’ reason and critical action, ‘The work of art must grip the audience not through passive identification but through an appeal to reason which demands action and decision.’
What Clarke has achieved is an intimate, nostalgic memoir in which the material is still full of pain and anger. The work is rooted in the communities he is honouring: apart from the permanent cast of Perry, Howard and the five male dancers, the supporting characters come from local mining communities or have a relationship to them and he uses songs played by colliery bands from areas of the country in which he is performing. This close-knit network of performers strengthens the cohesion of the work, but it is the lack of artistic detachment that weakens the dramatic impact. It implodes rather than explodes, draws us in rather than spits us out on a path to change. It is designed to rouse the emotions of the audience — and is more or less successful depending on where it is performed — to reaffirm the sense of betrayal that continues today.
We want COAL to succeed because what it depicts is vital to an understanding of these blighted communities and of our collective history but it falls short primarily because of its desire to entertain. The reality was and is far worse than COAL can ever admit but commemoration can also be a call to action; the struggle for the survival of the NHS is history repeating itself.
Posted: April 30th, 2016 | Author: Nicholas Minns | Filed under: Performance | Tags: Aideen Malone, Akram Khan, Anish Kapoor, Kaash, Kimie Nakano, Kristina Alleyne, Lighthouse Poole, Nicola Monaco, Nitin Sawhney, Sadé Alleyne, Sarah Cerneaux, Sung Hoon Kim, Yen-Ching Lin | Comments Off on Akram Khan Company, Kaash
Akram Khan Company, Kaash, Lighthouse Poole, April 13
Akram Khan Company in the revival of Kaash (photo: Jean-Louis Fernandez)
I had been invited by Libby Battaglia to give a writer’s workshop for young reviewers at Lighthouse Poole and the performance we were going to review was Akram Khan’s Kaash, his company’s first full-length work created in 2002. Presently on tour 14 years later, Kaash is an early and compelling vision of what the fusion between Khan’s classical kathak training and contemporary dance might look like. The result has the sophistication of the classical with the raw power of the contemporary that remains as thrillingly visceral as it evidently did in 2002 when it won the Critics Circle National Dance award for Best Modern Choreography. Performed by a typically international cast of five — then as now — the choreography has a universal quality unattached to any particular nationality or genre, but Kaash displays a unity of influence through the collaborations with artist Anish Kapoor and musician Nitin Sawhney. In their respective mediums both Kapoor and Sawhney had already established a synergy between their Indian roots and western culture so by the time of their collaboration with Khan his choreographic forms could be framed in an aural and visual environment that complemented and enriched them.
There is no linear narrative in Kaash but rather a series of ideas explored in movement, what the program note describes as ‘Hindu gods, black holes, Indian time cycles, tablas, creation and destruction.’ These are elements of Indian cosmology and dance familiar to Khan who was exploring the affects of his cultural identity without resorting to their traditional cultural signifiers. Images are woven into the fabric of the work, as in the form of the god Shiva glimpsed in a line of dancers, one behind the other, displaying the multiple arms of a single body, or the mudras (hand gestures) that carry their own meaning but here give shape to and refine the movements of the arms and hands. Indian time cycles or signatures are the kathak rhythmical counts that are chanted by the accompanying singer. When Khan himself was dancing in the original he would chant these time signatures himself, but here it is his voice we hear (recorded by Bernhard Schimpelsberger); it becomes part of the score rather than a live element of the dance.
Kapoor’s large black rectangle painted on the backdrop represents the black hole that in Indian cosmology was the centre of the world and the seat of Lord Vishnu, creator of the universe. A black hole is also a region of space-time with such strong gravitational effects that nothing can escape from inside it. The stage becomes a dynamic energy field, lit from smouldering to fire by Aideen Malone, inside which Khan’s choreography creates a powerful sense of gravity acting on the bodies of his dancers. One common characteristic of kathak and contemporary dance is the repudiation of vertical space; movement remains intensely horizontal and grounded. The dancers in Kaash cross from one side of the stage to the other like particles in close proximity. Even solos, especially by the (English) twins Kristina and Sadé Alleyne, have this remarkable vitality that cannot be extinguished. The figure of Sung Hoon Kim, bare-chested in a long black skirt (all costumes by Kimie Nakano), provides a soothing spiritual dimension — an exploration of Lord Shiva, agent of destruction and change. In Hindu cosmology the end of each kalpa brought about by Shiva’s dance is also the beginning of the next cycle. For some time in the opening section Kim remains still, absorbing the energy around him until he starts to move with extraordinary speed and precision, which in turn affects the other dancers; the cycle of creation and destruction continues unabated. Khan’s original role is danced by Nicola Monaco, and the fifth dancer is Sarah Cerneaux. The reconstruction of Kaash under the eye of rehearsal director Yen-Ching Lin has been guided by some of the original cast, though because the techniques of contemporary dance have changed in the last 14 years Kahn encouraged the present dancers to refresh the choreography without losing its overall form. This is perhaps why the work still seems so alive.
Sawhney’s score supports and gives life to the cyclical energy of Kaash, acting on our ears in the same way Kahn’s choreography immerses our visual and kinetic senses. Sawnhey makes use of drumming that belongs as much to the Japanese kodo as to the Indian tabla: powerful, percussive rhythms that emphasise the earthy quality of the dance pervading the first section with its repeated patterns of dynamic lunges and powerful, heavily sweeping arms. At one point the addition of John Oswald’s Spectre played by the Kronos Quartet, seeps into the score like a memory, and similarly there are whispered fragments of recorded speech that tease the notion of ‘kaash’ (Hindi for ‘if only’) into aural puzzles: “If only I’d bought one instead of two” or, more pertinently to Khan’s identity, “If I tell you the truth about who I really am.”
Kaash in 2002 was uniquely situated in the British cultural and social zeitgeist that sought links and bridges to its multicultural communities. Khan responded with a work that seemed to go far beyond that remit, turning it almost inside out. As the dramaturg, Guy Cools, has suggested, Khan’s artistic universe (along with that of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui) is largely built around ‘his identity in-between dance cultures,’ and in this early work he effectively subsumes his two identities by fusing them into a seamless whole.