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Akram Khan Company's “XENOS” full of Drama and Technical Skill

by Joanna G. Harris
March 4, 2019
Zellerbach Hall
Bancroft Way at Telegraph
(2430 Bancroft Ave.)
Berkeley, CA 94704
510.642.9988
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009.
In his extensive notes to the performance of “XENOS” dancer/choreographer Akram Kahn, whose dance style combines Indian Kathak with modern dance, speaks of themes of reflection, death, rebirth, time alienation, identity and memory. He comments that people in the world today create beauty and alas, commit violence. All this is inherent in the work, “XENOS” which means stranger or foreigner. His source is the archives of the 20th century, “unearthing the experience of colonial soldiers in the World War I.

Fortunately, I read none of those notes before the March 4 performance began at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Auditorium. Before Kahn danced, the musicians Nina Harries, (double bass and vocals), BC Manjunath (percussion and konnakol), Tamar Osborn (baritone saxophone), Adiatya Prakash (vocal), and Clarice Rarity (violin), entertained us with their unique sound and song.

Kahn danced with their music; his moves were powerful, using strong arm and foot gestures to, so to speak, mark his presence ‘in the field’. When he embraced and gathered some dirt into a small, precious pile, we became aware of his pitiful feelings.

Then the musicians left and we were subject to various electronic and off stage sound as Kahn climbed a hill of debris, interacting with rope, wire and a megaphone speaker. He was able at all times to be convincing of the threats and terror of this environment. Figures appeared in the space above him. They were the musicians, but also perhaps threatening angels. Finally, he returned to earth and to the ground. He was worn, his clothes were ripped, his feet were filthy, but he remained. Kahn, through dance-drama has presented, as his last solo appearance, a Promethean myth. He fulfilled it through his great technical ability, his command of dramatic skill and his great belief in the subject.
Akram Kahn in 'XENOS'.

Akram Kahn in "XENOS".

Photo © & courtesy of Jean-Louis Fernandez

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