Gigs, dance, art

May 12th, 2010: Akram Khan – Gnosis


This show displayed both sides of Akram Khan‘s work, Kathak in the first part and contemporary dance in the second. Combined with his return to this smaller venue, this felt like a nice way to look at what he’s done these past few years, and ended with a look at what might be coming.

I hadn’t seen him perform a Kathak show in years, but the reprise of Polaroid Feet reminded of the way his explanations really helped me to like Indian classical dance. He didn’t talk this time, but I remembered his words quite clearly. The second piece, Tarana, was faster on average, but shared a lot with the first one, with a focus on the upper body, especially arms. There was the precise extending of the arms, at an angle or level, and this controlled energy always ready to explode into a short burst of speed. The mic stand came on stage for a rhythmic part focused on footwork and phrases introduced by Akram Khan and the tabla replies. Unplugged, the name of this piece, also included instrumental parts without dance, and one of these was just great, with just tabla and Japanese drums. At times their sounds merged so that the taiko rang first but then the ringing of the tabla took over. A very nice effect.

After a short intermission, they came back for the contemporary dance part of the show, Gnosis. Yoshie Sunahata wasn’t drumming anymore but dancing. Though it wasn’t that clear cut, as after a slow part her movements were just like she was drumming, exactly the way I remember from Kodo performances — from what Akram Khan said when he introduced her, I think she’s from that ensemble. He joined he at that time, then went whirling around the stage before collapsing. Then the show went more narrative with a blindness theme, but still with nice dance moments — my favorite involved hands — and some potent images — like her walking on him. When she left the stage the light went red and Akram Khan reused a fast hand movement like around a ball I remembered from his previous show. He was the only dancer for the rest of the show, but Yoshie Sunahata came back singing. And she has a very nice voice. She played, danced, acted and sang, and pretty much stole the show as far as I’m concerned.

I hope there’s more coming from that pair, this show was so promising but also short. The use of material from earlier shows was in keeping with the theme of the show, but I’m sure there could be much more. Yoshie Sunahata is talented, and somehow the taiko feels a right fit with Akram Khan’s dance.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

November 20th, 2008: Akram Khan & Juliette Binoche – In-I

@théatre de la ville

Even though I like Akram Khan a lot, I was not expecting much from this show. This collaboration with a famous actress was so hyped it made me suspicious. Not that I would expect it to live up to that hype, but they had to be aware of this and that might have made them cautious, or too eager to please. And I must say I had been disappointed by his work with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, not that it was bad, but I felt it was a missed opportunity with too much compromise between these strong personalities and not much feeding off each other. I think that was the right frame of mind for me, because I did like this one despite its shortcomings.

The beginning was the best in my opinion, first because there was a solo part by Akram Khan while Juliette Binoche was talking, a solo that displayed all the concentrated energy I love in his dance — special mention for the arms movements, as often. The very good surprise was that when she joined him she was not overmatched. I guess the credit goes to Akram Khan managing to devise a choreography that she could perform without toning it down much. Of course there was none of the blinding speed he can unleash, but it was still quite fast, and his balance between control and energy was indeed there. She might have been low on the control side, but she was really throwing herself into the dance and not playing it safe. The result was that this sequence worked very well, and went nicely beyond what I expected.

That was the highwater mark on the dance side; there were a couple more pure dance sequences, but not at this level, and with more narrative elements. The acting and storytelling parts went over my head, as usual, but nonetheless there was enough presence to keep me interested. I would have been happy enough with that original dance sequence, but what made this experiment a success for me was the way they seemed commited as each took chances by venturing in the other’s territory. Not a major work from Akram Khan, but definitely not a vanity project to be dismissed either. An interesting show, and some real sharing that was actually working. Uneven, but with some gems that only come from taking real chances.

November 23, 2008 Posted by | Dance | , , | Leave a comment

June 4th, 2008: Akram Khan – Bahok

@theatre de la ville

Another good one, make that a great one. As usual with Akram Khan, whose collaboration with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui was the closest to a disappointment, and even then only because of my high expectation — and it was still definitely good. This time the outside influence was having three dancers from the national ballet of China. I was curious but it turned out that was pretty much besides the point, the mixed backgrounds and origins being almost a hallmark of his work, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell had I not read about it earlier. The classical training did show in the two female dancers, but that’s not a surprise as my memories of my — long gone — days of seeing classical ballet taught me that it tends to be mercilessly codified for the female parts. Male dancers enjoy a tiny little bit more variety. But it only showed at times, and there was even a comedy bit where both danced in the western ballet style. Great and diverse music, most of which was again by Nitin Sawhney, as well as a very nice sparse set with a single electronic board hanging in the middle and a few chairs, for a minimalist airport waiting room feel. Fabiana Piccioli’s lighting was excellent, playing with that board to partition the stage at times.

Overall the show interleaved short acting sequences with pure dance sequences. Of course the latter were what I loved, but the rest wasn’t bad either, and made the dance stand out even more. The storyline was mostly about waiting, with a thread about a woman who has forgotten where she’s from. Anyway, it should be seen to be made sense of, and the only important thing is that it worked for me at least. The dance was highly dynamic almost all the time — as usual — yet very diverse, athletic and controlled throughout but with many different movements and shifting emphasis. From close to the ground to whirling leaps, from circles to lines, with solo parts, duos and group sequences that could be perfectly synchronized or featuring subgroups.

My favorite part came close to the the end, when two dancers embraced, then were joined by the others, with one struggling to find room in that collective embrace, and finally climbing on top. Then one left the group to discard his cell phone and on his joining back the group it kind of exploded with a sudden shift to a harsher light and pounding, quickening music, and one of the most interesting group sequence I’ve seen in a while. There was a lot of moving back and forth with infectious head bobbing at first, but they spread out to occupy most of the stage and the group would splinter at times, individuals or subgroups moving to a different pattern only to join the others again. Preljocaj did something related recently, but here it was much clearer and the sharpness of Akram Khan’s choreography made it much better for me. Again, I’m amazed by the way he can write such decisive, fast and athletic movements that still manage to flow so smoothly.

This one stood out, but there was not one single dance sequence that bored me, and even the only I liked least — because it echoed things I’ve seen too often this year — was the best use of that pattern. Of course I’m curious about his work with Juliette Binoche, but I’m confident it’s at least worth a shot. He’s just good enough to make that work.

June 4, 2008 Posted by | Dance | , , | Leave a comment