Akram Khan Company at Sadler’s Wells, London
March 4, 2016
If questions remain about the value of living in a multicultural Britain, Kaash provides all the answers. The talent in this group of ethnically diverse Britons, augmented by international artists, is simply staggering. Akram Khan’s initial training in the precision and detail that characterises kathak dance, married to his powerful fluid contemporary style have revisioned and vitalised Britain’s dance scene.
In 2002 Kaash burst onto the scene and, despite the wealth of choreography that Khan has produced in the interim, this small and perfectly formed work remains a gem of great worth. The dream team of Khan, designer Anish Kapoor and composer Nitin Sawney is complemented by five exceptional dancers: twins Christina and Sadé Alleyne, Sarah Cerneaux, Sung Hoon Kim and Nicola Monaco.
Khan has a flair for structure both in shaping choreography and also in the expert manner that he paces the energy. The opening has Kim standing silently, facing upstage for several minutes with the house lights up while the audience settles. Then, in a dramatic gesture, a sudden blackout is followed by a burst of sound, light and action. Daringly the show closes in a similar quiet vein. Kim stands alone, the other dancers having quietly peeled away, his back and arms weave eloquent patterns in the silence as darkness descends.
Khan’s choreography is holistic involving the body like few others. Arms and hands find geometric angles often in sharp contrast to fluid torsos and fleet footwork. Bodies fly and roll: one moment a powerhouse of steel the next as fluid as a cat. His dancers are masters of clarity and definition as a spin instantly freezes and pounding feet beat out intricate rhythms.
Sawney’s score is flexible, ranging from passages of silence to all pervasive sound that envelops the audience. The percussion is enhanced by staccato plosive vocals and the beating of bare feet on the stage. Kimie Nakano’s simple dark costumes add flow, the shapes complimenting the movement.
Kapoor is a master of volume, texture and colour. The backdrop, embossed by a central rectangle has chameleon qualities, the shifts in colour and lighting giving unusual depths and dynamics. The lighting, by Aideen Malone, transforms the stage from atmospheric gloom to an instant textured brightness or a saturation of brilliant colours.
Each of these aspects works to build the artistic whole but the dance remains central and it is little short of magnificent: intrinsic power and grace supported by a level of technical brilliance that is hard to match.