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    2018-2019 reviews:


    If, then and now

    International dance sensation Akram Khan delivers a pastiche of methods ancient, contemporary, and the tried & true in "Kaash."


    The latest sensation to hit the international dance scene, Akram Khan began studying the 16th-century classical Indian Dance form of Kathak at the age of seven, without exposure to contemporary or Western dance forms until college. In the few years since the formation of his company in 2000, he has won an exceptional amount of international recognition and acclaim for his choreography. It is no wonder that "Kaash" overflows with confidence, boldness, and assertion.

    Choreography by: Akram Khan.
    Dancers: Eulalia Ayguade, Akram Khan, Moya Michael, Inn Pang Ooi, Shannel Winlock.
    Music by: Nitin Sawhney.
    Set design by: Anish Kapoor.
    Costumes by: Saeunn Huld.
    Additional Music — "Spectre" by John Oswald, performed by the Kronos Quartet, Lighting Design by Aideen Malone
    The Joyce
    175 Eighth Avenue
    Oct. 14-19, 2003

    As the audience filled the house Friday night at the Joyce Theater, one dancer stood on stage, his back to us, facing a large black rectangle with blurred edges that is Rothko-esque in it's simplicity and depth. Four dancers plow across the stage, arms slicing and slashing through the air above the downward thrust of their deep and buoyant lunges. They advance upon the statuesque Inn Pang Ooi with force and determination. The throbbing music by Nitin Sawhney supports their momentum with hearty base and rolling tablas rhythms. Immediately I am made aware of the machine-like precision, hyper-athletic virtuosity, and youthful energy of this company. Call it skepticism, but I was quickly prompted to demand more out of the choreographer in the way of compositional smarts and conceptual weight.

    The title "Kaash" comes from the Hindi word for "if". Using Shiva, the god of both destruction and creation as a source of inspiration for the creation of this work, Khan has given himself and the audience almost too-large a playground for interpretation. The stunningly bold lighting and set design (by Aideen Malone and Anish Kapoor, respectively) provide elements for analysis through their simple color palette of red, blue, and black. The movement vocabulary is also wrought with symbolic potential. The direct quotation of Kathak dance phrases, complete with almost didactic recitation of their vocal accompaniment, is combined with very hip, edgy contemporary phrase work that no matter how inventive and crafty is still recognizable in its origin (I hesitate to say "Western" due to the global homogenization of late contemporary dance). Khan talks about his movement vocabulary as a phenomenon of his body's absorption and digestion of his life's varied cultural influences. In somewhat of an anthropological pastiche, "Kaash" simulates through dance the experience of two cultures, and two times in history meeting each other head-on with no aspirations but to coexist.

      In somewhat of an anthropological pastiche, "Kaash" simulates through dance the experience of two cultures, and two times in history meeting each other head-on with no aspirations but to coexist.
    To add a third moment in the dance timeline to his field of reference, the compositional structure — the architecture of the work — is neither ancient nor cutting edge. It is unavoidably reminiscent of American modern dance traditions as perpetuated by writings like Humphrey's "The Art of Making Dances" that state some very viewer-oriented do's and don'ts of dance-making. Khan's senses of timing, structure, and climax are very conventional and palatable, but his 29 years are also apparent. This is high-velocity, high-amplitude work, by a man raised admittedly idolizing Michael Jackson. Khan's popularity is not just because he has a unique cultural niche; he is good at giving the 21st century viewer what they are primed to want when they are primed to want it.

    OCTOBER 22, 2003

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