Magazine article The Spectator

Dance: Akram Khan Company -- Kaash; Rosas -- Golden Hours (as You like It)

Magazine article The Spectator

Dance: Akram Khan Company -- Kaash; Rosas -- Golden Hours (as You like It)

Article excerpt

You revisit an old love with wariness. Time's passed for both of you -- sharp edges have been smoothed, and reputations built. But seeing Kaash again last week, Akram Khan's tremendous debut ensemble work, made when he was 26, revived at Sadler's Wells now that he is 41 and a world name, I felt the earth move just as before.

Like Athene, born fully armed from Zeus's head, Kaash leapt astonishingly out of the modest, watchful mind of Khan, then a superb classical Indian soloist embarking on his first choreography for other dancers. One of the great pleasures of this past fortnight for a veteran dancegoer has been seeing his dazzling piece again days before the latest creation of his former mentor, Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, now 55. The two dancemakers have in common a nervous attraction to the place of percussive rhythm and time statements in dance, in both textures of phrasing and in overarching themes. And, contra those sceptics who postulate that contemporary choreographers can offer no specific language to challenge the academic vocabulary of ballet, here were two danceworks showing instantly recognisable physical signature and grand imagination, like it or not. Not, comes into discussion of the De Keersmaeker, but more of that in a minute.

The Hindi word kaash means 'if...'. Schooled in the dynamic north Indian danceform Kathak (a dance tradition more than 2,000 years old), Wimbledon-born Khan stepped out with an epic inspired by Shiva myths of creation and destruction and of a 'multiverse' of alternative worlds.

In keeping with the theme, Khan and his composer Nitin Sawhney destroyed and recreated parts of the 2002 work for their 2016 dancers -- and yet if anything the fiery emotiveness and apocalyptic mystery of the original is intensified. The drama explodes in your face from the first: a lone man staring into darkness is subsumed in the cacophonous fiery-red eruption of a cohort of dancers remorselessly scything across the ground with huge, jagged drags of the arms. The need for dreams, the beautiful violence of imagination and the lure of death are all encapsulated in the thrilling opening moments, and these true themes are not let down during the piece's 55 minutes.

Central to the imagery is Anish Kapoor's mesmerising backcloth, a blurred rectangular void framed in white, which, washed and drenched in colours by lighting designer Aideen Malone, can appear to be a portal into the unknown, or a wall of fire, or a vanishing illusion. The floor is a blood-red carpet, or chequered like a jasmine-yellow quilt, which transmutes the wheeling dancers into celestials bouncing on air. …

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