THE BEAT POET OF INDIAN DANCE.
Akram Khan is one of Britain's hottest young dancers today, and there is good reason for it. Not only is he a splendid choreographer, combining and exploring modern dance techniques with those of classical Indian dance, but he is also a beautiful dancer to watch. Small and compact, he possesses great musicality and precision and his interpretations are carefully thought out, both in his pure interpretations of traditional Indian dance and when he weaves the two disciplines together. In the past few months, he has won many prizes and accolades in England and has recently been made choreographer-in-residence of London's Royal Festival Hall at the South Bank Centre on the River Thames.
It was here, in the Purcell Hall, that he made his solo debut at the South Bank complex in an evening titled "Polaroid Feet," a reference to that form of camera that produces instant images. This program was devoted to kathak, the North Indian dance style that Khan has studied since he was 7, and he both danced and explained the intricacies of its rhythms and music. In his own work, the first of three, entitled Nritta in Still Motion, he started by "speaking" the beats of the sixteen-beat cycle--called tintal--and stamping them out. He then proceeded to demonstrate those mathematical rhythms in a ribbon of movement that began slowly with wrist action, steady lunges, and elegant poses before speeding up with knife-sharp arm slices and series of barefoot stampings and fast turns that set the rows of bells on his ankles jingling. He was fortunate in having superb Indian musicians, not to accompany, he informed, but to share the evening's concert. And after his first demonstration, he showed how to improvise with different time signatures. First he asked for a number from the audience and then proceeded to stamp out that number in multiple combinations of it, playing a cat-and-mouse game with the tabla (drum) player who would follow Khan's beatings in dialogue with the dancer. Finally, Khan would dance these combinations.
The second work, Ardhanarishwara, was choreographed by Gauri Sharma Tripati, who also sang the Shiva half of the recitation that accompanied Khan. This dance showed the vast complexities of kathak in its blending and symmetry of two contrasting styles representing Shiva, one of the principal deities of Hinduism, and her consort Parvati, who join together in one body, half male and half female, which is called Ardhanarishwara. Khan was mesmerizing in his graceful balances and gestures.
The final work was by Khan's own guru, Sri Pratap Pawar, who had spotted the young boy's potential when he first started dancing. Titled Anandam (Tarana-Darbari), it was set to ten- and sixteen-beat rhythms called raag (Darbari) and tal (Tal-Jhaptaali). Khan moved stealthily and deliberately at first, like a Bengal tiger, then suddenly catapulted into multiple speedy but smooth turns across the stage, keeping low to the floor. Sharp and angular contrasting movements followed, but throughout, Khan constantly demonstrated elegance and composure, occasionally grinning after completing some complicated action. It was an exciting and informative evening for the audience, and while all the musicians were superb, special mention should be made of the amazing virtuosity of tabla player Vishnu (Sanju) Sahai.
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|Title Annotation:||Review; Akram Khan|
|Article Type:||Dance Review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2001|
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