Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company, Inter-rupted

Posted: November 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company, Inter-rupted

Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company, Inter-rupted, Barbican, October 22

Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company in Inter-rupted

Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company in Inter-rupted (photo: NCPA)

When we look at the body in finer and finer detail, can we find what we’re protecting? If we visualise searching right down amid the very marrow for the thingness of our body, can we find it? Attachment to one’s physical form is based on the body being a reliable, continuous entity. But can we pinpoint what we’re clinging to when we probe its depths?” – Pema Chödrön.

The quote from Tibetan Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, is printed in the program for Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company’s Inter-rupted, part of this year’s Dance Umbrella. It is a text about attachment, the subject Mangaldas explores choreographically in 75 minutes of uninterrupted choreography. She and her six dancers appear and disappear, gather and disperse, disintegrate and reform, interlock and unlock, yet all these contrasts form a series of scenes without borders, one merging into the next, each with a symbolism of its own that is carried in the movement. While Mangaldas set out to counter the temporal nature of life by resisting the notion of attachment, in the course of making the work she had to face the very nature of attachment she had set out to explore. Woven into the cloth of the work is thus the solitary thread of its imperfection. Mangaldas herself embodies this dynamic contradiction as she brings us into the fragile moment, ‘like any we might strive to hold on to…even if all is transient, all is flowing, and all is Inter-rupted.’ Her dancers — Karan Gangani, Minhaz, Aamrapali Bhandari, Anjana Singh, Sunny Shishodiya and Manoj Kumar — move like a chorus that flows with and around her with virtuosic, fire-cracker footwork, vertiginous turning and a wonderfully lyrical use of gesture and voice. In addition to a recorded sound score by Sajid Akbar, the company is joined on stage by three gifted musicians — Mohit Gangani on tabla and padhant, Ashish Gangani on pakhawaj and padhant, and Faraz Ahmed on vocals — who punctuate the choreographic flow with, respectively, virtuosic rhythms and plaintive song.

In some ways Inter-rupted is familiar territory; it is a journey of ‘exploring the past (of kathak) with a modern mind’ that Akram Khan has been forging in this country for the last 16 years. Khan, however, was born in England and has been working with an international cast of performers in a country that welcomes cross-cultural fertilisation as an expression of its identity; Mangaldas and her dancers have had to challenge the established norms of kathak from within its own cultural context. As she wrote in response to a question I asked her, this process ‘does raise debates in India but that makes the entire conversation alive and relevant. There is a growing appreciation of looking at our classical traditions in contemporary contexts and a huge appreciative viewership that encourages change. So the environment is quite vibrant with debate and interesting new directions.’ Inter-rupted thus resists tradition while remaining very much within it, a very different proposition to that of Khan; Mangaldas’s work looks refreshingly like the real thing.

What makes the aesthetic of Inter-rupted familiar, perhaps, is that the production team includes some of Khan’s key figures he had introduced to Mangaldas nearly seven years ago, since when they have been working together on various productions: Farooq Chaudhry is listed as dramaturg, Fabiana Piccioli as lighting designer and Kimie Nakano designed the costumes. The confluence of Piccioli and set designer Manish Kansara — a sculptor based in Delhi — is visually stunning: an airy, three-sided space in shades of ochre that acts, depending on the lighting, as much like a large interior room as it does an undefined exterior space. The very opening shows a solitary man short of breath shaking uncontrollably in his room as he stares out at the audience, his body disintegrating until he recedes into the dark. Out of the dark we see the figure of Mangaldas slithering diagonally backwards through a shadowy, open space dragging a cloth that unwinds into a broad stream of material before she gathers it in slowly and purposefully as six figures enter the space that becomes a room once again.

Nakano’s evident understanding of, and sensibility to kathak rhythms allow her costumes to breathe and flow with the movement while maintaining an ascetic, spiritual quality in which the work is painted.

But while Mangaldas’s collaborators give Inter-rupted its aesthetic cohesion, it is the richness of the material — Pema Chödrön’s ‘thingness’ — and its interpretation that make this body-and-mind struggle to face its true nature a cause for celebration.

 

This review was commissioned by Pulse Asian Dance and Music and appears here with the very kind permission of its editors. 


An Interview with Wang Ramirez

Posted: October 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Interview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on An Interview with Wang Ramirez

An interview with Wang Ramirez

Wang Ramirez (photo: Filine Fink)

Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez (photo: Filine Fink)

Sadler’s Wells is continuing to expand its remit, for the first time co-producing an event at The Royal Albert Hall on November 2: musician Nitin Sawhney, an associate artist at Sadler’s Wells, is performing takes from his most recent album, Dystopian Dream accompanied by singer Joss Stone and other guests. Already known in dance circles for his compositions for Akram Khan (Vertical Road, Zero Degrees, ITMOi and Bahok), Sawhney’s event will feature dance by the Wang Ramirez duo in their first appearance at The Royal Albert Hall. Honji Wang has already danced with Khan — so many roads lead to and from Khan, another Sadler’s Wells associate artist — but in her partnership with Sébastien Ramirez she has performed with flamenco dancer Rocío Molina, in hip hop, and for the Rebel Heart Tour with Madonna for which Ramirez provided choreography.

Wang was born of Korean parents in Germany. She studied gymnastics, classical ballet and hip hop with a flavour of martial arts. Ramirez is a French b-boy of Spanish origin who shares with Wang a start in gymnastics and a love of martial arts, with further interests in capoeira, boxing and Brazilian jujitsu. His career was already under way when he met Wang in 2004 at a freestyle event in Berlin. With their cultural identities and complementary dance forms already intermixed, the duo has openly searched for ways to cross-fertilize with other styles and traditions. Performing to the music of Sawhney is a continuation of that path.

“We are always experimenting with our way of dancing, moving, and creating together,” says Ramirez in conversation. “What it means to do certain moves with a certain intention, how this will be seen and understood by the audience…So we constantly search to develop the techniques we have mastered into a new growth that becomes our own form. It’s a life of exploring and it keeps us constantly moving…”

Wang uses an imaginative image to describe her approach to artists working in different styles: “I’m extremely nosy to experience their cocoon; I want to enter like a little mouse and see what they see.” Perhaps it is this willingness to see through the eyes of others that makes Wang Ramirez collaborations so seamless. When I saw her dance with Khan last year Wang remained faithful to her own dance but complemented Khan in her power and fluidity.

When she first heard Sawhney’s song, Homelands, Wang remembers, “I loved that sound, but for me he was an artist who was far away from where I was; I was just 16 and didn’t know what the hell was going to happen with my life. Later on when I heard his music again in performances of Akram Khan I was always thinking the music is such a great mix of something ethnic with massive beats and rhythms. So when we got a call from Sadler’s Wells to ask if the collaboration with Nitin would interest us, we thought, yes, of course.”

Ramirez describes the process of creation: “We always want to get as close as possible to strong emotions by using body movement, dance, visuals, and technology…having met Nitin in his studio and after listening to the music, we enjoyed exchanging ideas and concepts right away; it came very naturally and a it’s project we are excited to work on. The way we will prepare is a spontaneous process between each of us around lots of discussion and emotional statements that we will relate to our choreography and graphics.”

Whatever the outcome on November 2, Wang Ramirez will not simply accompany Sawhney’s music; they are catalysts who will transform it through their own alchemy while letting the music transform them. That’s after all the true nature of an artistic collaboration.

Wednesday 2 November 2016 at 7.30pm
Royal Albert Hall, SW7
Tickets: £25 – £60
Ticket Office: 020 7589 8212 or www.royalalberthall.com / 020 7863 8000 or www.sadlerswells.com


Until the Lions: Akram Khan Company at The Brighton Festival

Posted: June 12th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Festival, Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Until the Lions: Akram Khan Company at The Brighton Festival

Akram Khan Company, Until The Lions, Brighton Dome, May 27

Ching-Ying Chien in Until the Lions (photo: Jean-Louis Fernandez)

Ching-Ying Chien in Until the Lions (photo: Jean-Louis Fernandez)

Earlier this year I saw Peter Brook’s Battlefield at the Young Vic; it was his adaptation of five books from the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. Akram Khan made his debut at the age of 13 in Brook’s original nine-hour production of the Mahabharata. What a coincidence then, that Khan should present in the same year as Battlefield another story from the same saga, one of love, betrayal and revenge in an original reworking by Karthika Naïr that has become Until the Lions.

The title comes from an African proverb: ‘Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.’ The lion in Naïr’s poem is Amba, the daughter of the King of Kashi who is abducted on her public swayamvara (betrothal) ceremony by Bheeshma, the son of the Kuru king. Vowing revenge on Bheeshma, Amba immolates herself and is reincarnated as the male warrior Shikhandi by whose hand Bheeshma meets his end on the battlefield. The dual role of Amba/Shikhandi is danced respectively by Ching-Ying Chien and Christine Joy Ritter; the role of Bheeshma is danced by Khan himself.

Until the Lions has Kahn’s signature symbolism and spirituality dressed in white and covered in haze, with arresting stagecraft and musical accompaniment (by Sohini Alam, David Azurza, Yaron Engler and Vincenzo Lamagna). The dancing of Chien and Ritter is what we have come to expect in Kahn’s international casts of exceptional artists whereas Kahn’s own performance, even if his presence is strong, lacks the flow and attack he once had. It is something he acknowledges, but it begs the question of why he didn’t find a younger dancer on whom to create the role. The result is a performance that has all the appearance of significance yet lacks its bite. There is a feeling that Nair’s poetry has not gained in the dancing, but is simply the starting point of something else, something defined more in the production values than in the content.

Brook’s space for Battlefield is spare, a vast stretched stage cloth with very few stage elements. This environment stands in stark contrast to the subject of the dialogue and enhances the production’s focus on the clarity of thought. Khan and his producer, Farook Chaudry, have taken a different path. The narrative involving three characters has been treated with a monumental production by conceiving it for the 360° Network of round artistic venues across the world. Created in the round, with Tim Yip’s vast slice of fissured tree trunk for a stage and with Michael Hulls’ lighting, the setting is to dance what the rock concert is to music. Michael Billington commented on Battlefield that ‘at a time when theatre is giddy with technology, you are struck by the way economical means are used to maximum effect.’ By contrast Hulls seems to be vying with the choreography for primacy.

The work premiered at The Roundhouse (a founding member of the 360° Network) in January. I didn’t see it there but at the Brighton Festival, which is not only one of 16 co-producers but also a co-commissioner of the work. The outside of the Brighton Dome is, like The Roundhouse, circular, but its concert hall is not configured for theatre in the round. It is at best an elongated semi-circle cut off by the stage, so fitting Until the Lions into this space required some spectacular fudging. The first thing you notice is the massive lighting rig to carry Hulls’ circular lighting conception and the second thing is the stage underneath it, a circular platform on top of the Dome’s regular stage.

So why did the Brighton Festival co-commission and co-produce a work that, as conceived, does not fit into its venue? Why co-commission it at all? How much of the Festival’s dance budget was taken up with this co-commission and what did it get from it? The questions are relevant because the dance programming of England’s prestigious festival in its 50th year is much thinner than the quality of English dance would suggest; the Festival has an opportunity if not a responsibility to present a challenging and varied dance program, rather than go for the prestigious names like Khan, or hook up with what happens to be touring with Dance Consortium (as it happened, NDT2). It’s ‘lazy’ programming and it has a deleterious effect on the country’s dance ecology.

Arts Council England, which funds both Akram Khan Company and the Brighton Festival, has a motto, ‘Great Art For All’. The motto has two elements: ‘great art’ and ‘for all’. Even if Khan is a well-known brand, great art does not necessarily equate with well-known names. And ‘for all’ implies that access to the great art is within the financial reach of a broad audience. An expensive work by a prestigious name means ticket prices are going to be high rather than broadly affordable and I can’t help feeling that with 16 co-producers and a co-commission, Until the Lions is roaring its way to the bank while the Festival is left strapped to build a dance program that does justice to the high quality of work that exists in the country (not to mention locally) with the public funds at its disposal. Perhaps a good starting point would be to appoint a dance producer; there is currently no mention of one listed under the Artistic Staff of the festival. There’s a music producer, a theatre producer, a classic music producer, and a family and children’s producer. For a festival that prides itself on its mandate to take ‘a new look at the arts’ and to have ‘the opportunity to assess developments in the field of culture…’ that’s a stunning omission.


Akram Khan Company, Kaash

Posted: April 30th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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)

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.


Akram Khan, Until the Lions

Posted: January 25th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Akram Khan, Until the Lions

Akram Khan Company, Until the Lions, January 19, Roundhouse, London

Ching-Yien Chien, Akram Khan and Christine-Joy Ritter in Until the Lions (photo: Jean-Louis Fernandez)

Ching-Yien Chien, Akram Khan and Christine-Joy Ritter in Until the Lions (photo: Jean-Louis Fernandez)

The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.” Augustine of Hippo

We do not encounter performances in isolation and so to write about them without context tells only part of the story. Earlier on the same day I visited two exhibitions: WOMEN: New Portraits by Annie Leibovitz at Wapping Hydraulic Power Station and For They That Sow The Wind by Julian Charrière at Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art.

As an architect of mood Khan (and his creative collaborators) clearly frames our arrival into the Roundhouse with a low grumbling, electronic rumbling soundtrack and a 15m wide tree trunk splatted across the stage. Fissures run through the trunk and act as a future echo for the scenographic finale that lingers in the mind long after you’ve left the auditorium.

Until the Lions (the performance) is distilled from a collection of poetry by Karthika Nair (of the same name) who amplified the narrative and shone a light on some of the minor female character’s from the original hindu epic The Mahabharata (in which a teenage Khan performed in Peter Brook’s seminal performance). In 1966 the playwright Tom Stoppard excavated two minor characters (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and injected them with life and framed them within a play of their own. The process of ekphrasis is one that Nair practices regularly and she’s previously worked with Khan as a writer on DESH:

“Akram is not interested in my poems as poems, he is very clear that it is the story or mood, the content which he will mould into his language or languages for stage: movement and visuals and music.”

Khan and dramaturg Ruth Little attempted to stretch and deliver a slender narrative of male domination and female vengeance over 60 minutes with three dancers (Akram Khan, Ching-Yien Chien and Christine-Joy Ritter) and four musicians (Sohini Alam, David Azurza, Yaron Engler and Vincenzo Lamagna) with little success.

Don’t ask me who’s influenced me. A lion is made up of the lambs he’s digested, and I’ve been reading all my life.” Charles de Gaulle

My ears feasted on a driving and insistent live percussive score — an evocative vocal intensity, bordering on the shamanic, intoxicated me with a fervour, tension and delicious agitation; but my eyes nibbled on unimaginative repetition, 2D characters who didn’t want to connect with me and chasms of flabby, empty space. I felt little sense of drama, found no invention or choreographic hunger and left with a jarring sense of disappointment at this mismatched marriage of sound and vision.

There were too many examples of circumference running and walking which drained any pace and sagged any momentum being created by the urgent and cohesive soundtrack. As the performance developed I saw little nous or demonstration of the craft required for performances in the round. The centre of the stage is the weakest point for a performer as it’s here that half the audience cannot see the front of the body or face; yet Khan focused so much choreographic and illuminated action on this section of the stump.

However, there was a moment (around two thirds of the way through) when I felt an equality; the compositional and choreographic power aligned as Ritter began to take on a new form to vanquish her male nemesis. Here she writhed, scuttled and possessed arachnid qualities, totally inhabiting the movement, whilst my ears were possessed with voodoo screeches and relentless twitchy beats — it was in this moment I was magnetised; I zoomed in and wanted more. As a performer Khan was consistently rigid, restive and demonstrated little Kathak fluidity and I couldn’t understand the intention behind his own choreographic choices as it served only to highlight the lack of depth in the characters and narrative.

A lion among ladies is a most dreadful thing” William Shakespeare

Maybe Khan should follow in the footsteps of Lloyd Newson who recently announced he was taking a break. We know there is richness to be mined in Khan’s older work as exemplified by Chotto Desh (a work based on Desh but made for young people and expertly directed by Sue Buckmaster) which had no creative input from Khan and is currently touring under the banner of his company. The process of ekphrasis is already being practiced by Karthika Nair; why doesn’t Khan offer existing work to other choreographers and let them re-author it? An artist cannot constantly produce success after success and should not be beholden to a dance industry which demands new and more; otherwise fields become fallow, trees cannot grow and kittens will not become lions.

The Leibovitz portraits of Misty Copeland, Aung San Suu Kyi and others provided examples of female intimacy, power and drama that were authored by a woman whilst Charrière offered adventurous interpretations of how to merge past and present. Until the Lions explored similar territories and with the dance industry undergoing some very public reflection on the division of opportunities, commissions and performances between men and women it’s important to see how other artists are examining a similar terrain.


Aakash Odedra: Rising

Posted: October 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Aakash Odedra: Rising

Aakash Odedra, Rising, Pavilion Dance, October 18

Before Aakash Odedra performs the three contemporary works on the program, he demonstrates his dance roots in Kathak. Nritta, meaning pure dance, is a variation he created for himself and for which he arranged the classical Indian music. In my previous post, I mentioned that dance is expressed in the intellectual, the physical and the emotional bodies. Here in Nritta, Odedra manifests them all in perfect harmony within the complex rhythm of the music. As he writes in the program notes, ‘Here the movements of the body do not convey any mood or meaning and its purpose is just creating beauty by making various patterns and lines in space and time.’ It is pure dance.

Just perceptible in the smoky apse of light is a figure with his back to us, dressed in loose, grey cotton kurta and pants, his body still but for his arms and hands rising slowly, palms and gaze turned upwards as if offering a libation to the gods. The dance develops with dizzying, virtuosic turns – there is something of a Dervish in Odedra – and his lightning movements of the torso and arms make those statues of Shiva with multiple limbs make sense. How else can you capture this kind of movement in a statue? I had always thought of Kathak as grounded, with upward movement expressed in the body as an opposition to the energy directed into the floor, but the name Aakash means sky, and upward for Odedra means airborne: it is part of his personality, a trait his teacher in India recognized and encouraged. He has a slight frame, taut and elongated, so there seems to be no apparent force in his dance; what comes across is his love and thrill of movement and his freedom to jump and turn effortlessly around a still point. It is the physical expression of being in the moment.

Odedra does not come to contemporary dance through training in contemporary dance. He comes to contemporary dance through his training in Kathak. This makes his collaborations with Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant and Sid Larbi Cherkaoui a unique occasion. Khan has already developed a remarkable body of work from the same dance roots, so creating a solo on Odedra is a fast track process to a place way beyond the beginning. In the Shadow of Man is indeed a work that challenges Odedra in ways he may never have imagined, but his sensibility and integrity, not to mention his innate virtuosity, rise to the challenge. In the program notes, Khan muses on their shared Kathak tradition: ‘I have always felt a strong connection to the ‘animal’ embedded within the Indian dance tradition. Kathak masters have so often used animals as forms of inspiration, even to the point of creating a whole repertoire based on the qualities, movements, and rhythms of certain animals. So, in this journey with Aakash, I was fascinated to discover if there was an animal residing deep within the shadow of his own body.’ I don’t think there is any doubt that he found it, and the way Odedra reveals it is remarkable.

The opening image is difficult to make out, a shell or shield of an insect that is alive in that expressionless way insects busy themselves with the act of living: a movement of the eye, a leg, an antenna. But as the lighting of Michael Hulls gradually reveals this shield, we see it is Odedra’s crouched, naked back, and the insect eyes are his scapula rippling under his skin and the antennae his elbows. Jocelyn Pook’s score is suddenly riven by a piercing shriek from Odedra taken on the inbreath, scorching the lungs. He comes alive, unfolding like a wild man and stretching out his angular arms and legs like an emaciated saint stretching. The lighting picks out these body shapes, following the tearing movements of this hunter-gatherer, mouth gaping and blind eyes engaged. As in Nritta, we see the velocity of the turns, the arms whipped into the form of a double helix, and then the stillness. The insect develops into a loping monkey, to which the hissing and shrieks now belong, as do the whirling arms at the limits of Odedra’s circling torso, and the arching backbends that put his wild eyes upside down staring at us: traits of the atavistic figure consumed by the animal Khan has embedded – or revealed – in him. Pook’s score adds a sense of calm and order, rounding off the corners without disturbing the angular, feral nature of the beast. What gives this performance an otherworldly quality is the lack of any ego; Odedra has given himself over to the dance, and his bow at the end is one of genuine humility.

In Russell Maliphant’s Cut, Maliphant doesn’t so much create movement for Odedra as structure it. We see Odedra’s undulating, double-helix arms, his ability to rise from the ground as if pulled up by an invisible thread, his lightning dynamics, his ability to spin and his generosity of spirit. What distinguishes Cut – and gives it its name – is that Maliphant has Odedra dance with the light patterns of Michael Hulls which cut his body into zones of light. Hulls is a visual magician, creating a virtual scrim of light and smoke through which Maliphant thrusts and weaves Odedra’s movements, first his hands and arms and later his full, whirling body. The lighting also supports Odedra’s gestures, as when he pushes down magisterially on two columns of black light that are the vertical shadows underneath his own hands. A third element is Andy Cowton’s score, which is as intimately related to the choreography as the lighting. When Hulls’ triangle of light takes on three dimensions, opening up a vista of latticed blinds on the floor, there is a suggestion in the music of the blinds opening and closing as Maliphant contrasts Odedra’s crawling motif with the horizontal bars of light. Hulls rolls up the blinds leaving Odedra in silhouette in open space, and then raises the lighting level so only his skin is visible as his clothing blends into the smoky light. The final sequence is pure Odedra, whirling fiercely downstage across the blinds and arriving at a stillness in which he grasps the shadows of his hands and pushes them down once again, keeping his dark gaze on us, as he turns up his palms and closes his fingers slowly into a fist.

The order of the program is decided more by the technical aspects of the lighting than by a considered approach to the choreographic content: a little bit too much of the lighting tail wagging the choreographic dog. The last work, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Constellation, is the most mystical of the three, and belongs more in the middle than at the end, except for its lighting demands. It is also the work in which there is less of Odedra’s own movement vocabulary and more of Cherkaoui’s conceptual framework: a constellation made up of patterns of sound and light with Odedra as the locus, an ‘astral body generating its own rhythms and luminosity.’ The rhythms are provided by the lovely score of Olga Wojciechowska, and the luminosity by Willy Cessa’s suspended light bulbs of differing intensities that provide the only illumination for Odedra’s motion. He is more a presence in Constellation than a performer of Cherkaoui’s movement phrases. At one point Odedra swings a single bulb in front of his head that illuminates the alternate sides of his face as it rotates, like two phases of the moon. Constellation is a meditation on space and spirituality, and Odedra provides a performance of mystical serenity. Towards the end he sits in meditation and instead of Cessa’s lights fading to black at the final moment, they all increase to full illumination. How appropriate.