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Akram Khan Company's Kaash a journey into Dynamic Darkness

by Joanna G. Harris
November 23, 2015
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
415.978.ARTS (2787)
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Choreographer Akram Khan's Kaash, which is Hindi for "what if," is a 55-minute dance piece with music by Nitin Sawhney and set design by the sculptor Anish Kapoor that consisted of a black oblong shape outlined in red on the stage’s rear scrim.

Various studies of the 2002 premiere of the work noted that, “The choreographer, composer, and visual artist all worked on the common theme of aspects of the Hindu God Shiva; Shiva's cosmic violence, his meditative nature, and the eternal cycle of creation and destruction which he initiates.”

For the work's movement, Khan drew both from European and Indian dance traditions. The program reads: Hindu Gods, black holes, Indian time cycles, tablas, creation and destruction” were the start points for this work in 2002.

For Akram Khan Company's performance of Kaash, November 20-21 at San Francisco's Yerba Buena center for the Arts, five dancers (three women,two men) focused on physicality and precision, that I (Kahn) believe still has all its relevance today.

For the ordinary audience, neither versed in Hindu mythology nor the intricacies of Kathak dance, this work nevertheless brought an admirable, concentrated performance energy to the stage. The men tended to have solo roles, representing as they might, the god’s domination. The women carried the large swinging patterns that were continually repeated with endless variations in dancer groupings and spacing. A duet that began the second half of the work had a quieter, more lyric quality and provided a peaceful interlude between more intense sections.

The intricate solo by Sung Hoon Kim, danced with his back to the audience, clearly evoked a sense of worship.

Two mudras, or hand gestures, from classical Indian dance recurred in a number of places, often appearing in momentary pauses between dynamic movement sequences. Khan has said he chose these mudras specifically for this piece "because they were hand gestures that related directly to Shiva so there was a sense of aesthetic beauty."

For this reviewer, the sound score alternating between Indian dance accompanying rhythms, voice sounds and table drumming grew too intense to enjoy throughout, as did the red and black lighting against the black costumes. One assumes these are color references that promote the cross between Indian and contemporary dance, yet an audience’s ability to sustain attention under such unfamiliar stimulation can apparently be a strain.

The brilliant dancers were Krinia Alleyne, Sadé Alleyne, Sung Hoon Kim, Nicola Monaco and Sarah Cerneux.

Besides the score by Nitin Sawhney, additional music was “Spectre” by John Oswald played by the Kronos Quartet and voices by Khan and B.C.Manunath.

Photo © & courtesy of Jean-Louis Fernandez


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