Living with an actor means our lives are full of lots theatre, music but less of dance. Growing up in Winnipeg we had the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers… where I studied as a child. I love watching the art form and when there is someone truly talented taking to the stage, you can be completely transported.
While there are opportunities to see traditional forms of Indian dance, and Bollywood aplenty, the kind of modern dance I knew growing up rarely makes it to these shores.
Thanks to British Council, Sunday changed that. My friends and I reached St Andrews and wondered what we were about to get in to… the entire auditorium foyer was running amok with students from local dance schools. It felt like we were about to step into an amateur school show.
We were wrong. Completely wrong.
In Bharatnatyam’s dance form, Nritta literally meansis the illustration of rhythm through graceful body movements. It emphasizes the significance of acute synchronization between rhythm and time, with dance movements. In the opening piece, Aakash’s Indian classical dance training comes to the fore with flying feet, precise hand movements and whirling turns. Choreographed by Aakash himself, the peice is inspired by Kathak but much more.
In the Shadow of Men
Like rising from the primordial swamp, it opens with a spotlight on his bare back, slowly, his shoulder rises painfully from his body, transforming man into insect. It is disturbing… powerful, compelling. The choreography of Akram Khan could not be executed by any dancer – it requires someone with Aakash’s unique body structure and abilities to bring alive a painful, deeply disconcerting work. The music by Jocelyn Pook augments every insect-like movement, animalistic sound.
By contrast, as we choked on the fog, the third piece played with light and dark, with futuristic elements and Andy Cowton‘s pulsating music. Michael Hull‘s interplay of fog and focus beams with Russell Maliphant‘s choreography takes what is possible through light and movement to a different level. Aakash’s hands create shadows that literally ‘cut’ through the light to create powerful shadows.
Shifting from flying feet to perturbing to mesmerising, the last piece was fluid, lyrical and meditative. Hanging from the rafters, the stage was full of large lightbulbs, strung at various heights. Choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui crafted a visual treat with Aakash flowing around the stage, setting the lightbulbs into motion with a dance of their own. Like a soothing balm after the pain of ‘In the Shadow of Men’ and the piercing quality of ‘Cut’, we waft along with Aakash through the warmth of light swaying and swinging across the stage. In closing, Aakash sits at the centre with a single bright bulb focusing all energies on just that moment, just that light… drawing the audience into a zen-like close.
After the performance, it was like rising from a trance. We knew we witnessed something utterly unique. As Aakash gave an emotional tribute to his guru’s Shiamak Davar and Chhaya Kantaveh, there was no doubt we were blessed to have been part of an exceptional show.