Monday, June 12, 2017

DESH at Sadler's Wells - a Khan do attitude...

What!  Yet another dance production...!

Choreographer and dancer Akram Khan is now one of the UK's leading dance stars but we had never seen him onstage until last week when he saw his semi-autobiographical solo piece DESH at Sadler's Wells - and believe me he deshed about all over the place...

I can appreciate Khan's quality as a performer and it's a rare dancer who can perform a one-man show for 80 minutes, but by the end of the piece I was feeling claustrophobic by his taut, contained dance vocabulary.

DESH is based on Khan's memories of the stories of his Bangladeshi father.  The more Khan delved into the stories, the more a scenario grew in his mind...  he imagines a man whose father dies and the son travels back to his father's homeland and his culture shock of assumption meeting reality.

The exploration soon spirals off into imaginary spaces and here Khan is helped immeasurably by set designer Tim Yip and lighting designer Michael Hulls who conjure up imaginary worlds for him to dance through.

Indeed it's the visuals that have stayed with me... Khan exploring a jungle setting while telling a story to his niece where he climbed trees, met an elephant, snakes and a crocodile but the fairy tale ends with a sting in it's tale as he is confronted by an armoured tank in the jungle too, Kahn painting the father's face on his bald head and making this character dance, and the central image of him futilely trying to crack open a large slab of concrete. 

The evening climaxed with an atmospheric rainstorm conjured up by a silk curtain and strips of black material which rose to reveal row after row of white strips, eventually Khan ended up suspended among them.

I enjoyed the bravura visual theatricality, I just wish I had not found Khan's choreography to be so hemmed-in and internal.  I would definitely see another production of his however, especially if it involved more than one dancer!

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