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Robert Abrams
Performance Reviews
The Joyce Theater
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Akram Khan - Kaash

by Robert Abrams
October 19, 2003
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011

Akram Khan - Kaash

Robert Abrams
October 19, 2003

Kaash, presented at the Joyce Theatre in New York City, was a feast of movement. The first thing that catches your eye is the martial arts like port de bra (arm movement), but the dancers' bodies are fully invested in the movement as well. They have a grounded attack that just keeps coming. Mr Khan has created a pure dance meal with a strong, unique flavor baked in a stark oven.

The dancers' slows are slow, and their quicks are quick, just like in the best Latin dance. Their movements were as fast as Bob Powers and Julia Gorchakova. The dance lasted about an hour and their speed never flagged. And as fine as their speed was, their stillness was equally impressive.

The opening sequence set much movement around one still dancer as a fixed point of reference. This segment ended with the group becoming still and the one dancer moving. A second dancer joined him in a duet. The work evolved from there. Dancers were picked up and dropped off from the moving group with rapid hand offs.

There were some hand positions that were reminiscent of Indian dance, and some traditional Indian chanting, as well as an informality with the use of pauses that is characteristic of Kathak, but otherwise Mr. Khan has created a thoroughly modern work. The staccato arm and body movements were also sometimes reminiscent of music video style dance, but the effect was totally different because Mr. Khan's choreography is not trying to market sexuality the way that many music videos do.

The set and costumes were very stark, which was a good choice to showcase the movement. Sometimes the contrasting light and shadow with a black cutout in the backdrop that looked like it was staring into infinity looked a little like the inside of an oven, but mostly the stage just looked like an abstract space in which to dance. The lighting helped set off major segments of the work by changing to a red field, a violet field, or back to black and white stripes (and near the end, red and white stripes).

This is a fairly long work, but the variations in the choreography kept the audience's interest. The variations included everything from changing the number of dancers on stage, and changing the pace and tone of the music, to a section that sounded like the audience had been placed inside a jet engine, followed by total silence. While much of the dancing was upright, there were also sections where the dancers rolled around on the floor. I also noticed one bow and arrow movement (this isn't that critical, but does show that no matter how innovative the choreographer, or where he or she is from, bow and arrow movements almost always find their way into the dance).

I especially liked one other sound related segment that recapped some of the movements, but this time without any sound. This allowed the audience to focus more closely on the movement. Anyone who has turned down the radio as they drive around looking for an unfamiliar street can imagine the effect.

I liked the way that the dancers were committed to reaching in the direction in which they were moving. At several points Mr. Khan dances with only his arm. His arm seems to dance as if with a life of its own. On anyone else it would probably have looked like random wiggling, but he managed to make these sections extremely impressive.

If you like pure dance, this is a work not to miss.

I do have one suggestion, though. While Kaash is relatively long for a single work of modern dance by comparison to other works, since it was presented as the only work on the program, the program as a whole was shorter than most. I suggest that Mr. Khan add a short coda performance of traditional Kathak dance after Kaash. This would help his audience gain a deeper appreciation of his choreography by allowing them to see a side by side comparison of Mr. Khan's modern fusion with the traditions from which it springs.

Choreography and artistic direction by Akram Khan. Music by Nitin Sawhney. Additional Music Spectre by John Oswald and performed by the Kronos Quartet. Set design by Anish Kapoor. Lighting design by Aideen Malone. Costumes by Saeunn Huld. Technical management by Rachel Shipp. Sound operation by Peter Walleitner. Company management by Kerry Andrews. General management and production by Farooq Chaudhry. Danced by Eulalia Ayguade-Farro, Akram Khan, Moya Michael, Inn Pang Ooi, and Shanell Winlock.

Akram Khan in 'Kaash'
Photo courtesy of Roy Peters and Akram Khan Company

Akram in a typical Kathak pose
Photo courtesy of Akram Khan Company

Akram Khan and Company in 'Kaash'
Photo courtesy of Roy Peters and Akram Khan Company

Also see Rajika Puri's review of Akram Khan.

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