Ahead of the company’s performance at Cambridge Junction, That’s TV Cambridge interviewed Su Guzey and Melissa Ugonli to discuss the creation and performance of the work #JeSuis.
Listen to dancers Su Güzey and Evrim Akyay discussing #JeSuis with Geeta Pendse on BBC Radio Leicester’s The A Word.
Aakash Odedra joined the Front Row discussion on the future of dance in the UK alongside Kate Prince, Artistic Director of ZooNation; choreographer Tom Dale; and Laura Jones, Interim Co-Artistic Director of Stopgap Dance Company.
Sign in BBC Radio 4 Front Row to listen the programme on:
Interview by Monaco Info after our last presentation of 2018.
“Dans le cadre du « Monaco Dance Forum », le public a pu découvrir et s’émerveiller devant le spectacle « Rising », un programme interprété au Théâtre des Variétés par le danseur et chorégraphe : Aakash Odedra. Créé par trois grands noms de la chorégraphie, Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant et Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, des jeux de lumières et d’obscurité se sont succédés tout au long de cette danse créative, où se mêlent modernité et tradition dans la plus parfaite harmonie”.
A powerful and political piece for seven Turkish dancers
Winner of the 2017 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award
London premiere: Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells, 7 & 8 November then touring
Choreographer and performer Aakash Odedra has created his first company work on seven dancers from Turkey. A powerful physical exploration of oppression in all its guises, layers and contexts, #JeSuis has its London premiere at the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler’s Wells on 7 and 8 November.
#JeSuis has been several years in the making. Odedra first met the dancers in 2012 when he taught a workshop at Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul – and it was their collective responses to the widespread misinterpretations of their country which inspired him to create the piece. Preview performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017 won the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award and in June 2018 it won the Eastern Eye ACTA Dance Award. The world premiere took place at the New York University Abu Dhabi in February of this year.
Wrapped up in ideas around displacement, refuge and instability, #JeSuis portrays the frustrations of lives lived in conflict, a homeland that no longer knows the meaning of ‘home’, living somewhere where freedoms and choices are a luxury and the main hope is to stay safe.
#JeSuis also looks at the role of the media in dictating the stories we see. While #JeSuisCharlie brought solidarity and comfort to a world grieving the horrific attacks in Paris in 2015, other equally appalling attacks took place in Kabul and Istanbul but failed to capture the attention in quite the same way. #JeSuis acknowledges that some acts of oppression are more loudly heard and deeply felt than others
The dancers are Gizem Aksu, Yasin Anar, Evrim Akyay, Taner Güngör, Su Güzey, Beril Şenöz and Melissa Ugolini.
The musical score is by Odedra’s long-term collaborator Nicki Wells. Dramaturgy is by Lou Cope and lighting design by Alessandro Barbieri.
Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland Programme Director, said of the piece: “#JeSuis is a powerful wake-up call to everyone on the climate of violence and oppression that people in Turkey are currently enduring. To see attacks on freedom of expression portrayed through the medium of dance was incredibly powerful and accessible…. A production addressing freedom of expression in Turkey is particularly resonant for us as an organisation as our colleagues from Amnesty International Turkey are currently languishing in jail.”
October 20, 2016 by Jane Oriel
As we take our seats in the auditorium for Inked, the first of tonight’s two-dance programme, revealed in the dim light of the performance space is a single white silk drape, ceiling to floor, with the shape of a Gormley-ish man cut from it. Now in full darkness, unmistakably Kathak foot stamps can be heard, as the dancer’s own dark form appears through the shadow man, beating a growing foot rhythm that becomes a fluid locomotion that transports a seemingly static Aakash Odedra across the width of the stage on a beam of light.
Choreographed for Odedra by Damien Jalet, the now kneeling man in shirt and tied langot pants, begins to mark his arms with black ink characters. The shapes are deliberately formed. He then links hands and undulating from both shoulders, deceives the eye into believing his arms are boneless. The effect brings a ghoulishly fascination and I have to snap myself back into the room on more than one occasion to break away from it.
Now falling to sit in a solid lotus position, he’s like a street beggar, a double amputee as the legs (as they are) to the knee, perambulate the dancer around the stage in frustrated, stunted fashion. The programme says the inked decorations refer to Odedra’s grandmother who was symbolically, bodily marked in the service of protecting her family from damaging forces. Might her marks be powerful enough to protect the legs of a dancer?
A little later, Odedra kneels forward and removes his shirt. On wildly moving, gesturing shoulder blades are painted eyes. His hairy head could be a snout now, his forehead snuffling the ground. The gently humorous scene draws some ripples of laughter, which his shoulder-eyes glance towards, drawing a little more.
Then changing the mood, he throws his body forward and a stream of ink spews forth. The atmosphere shifts to calm and in a range of body extensions with his inked extremities as styli, he adds lavish ink marks both to himself and the white floor sheet. Atmospheric music by Loscil is sparingly used throughout, helping to change mood and direction as needed. At the conclusion, the calm hypnotic shapes as safety in patterns, family and tradition is satisfactorily acknowledged.
Raised in Birmingham, Aakash Odedra was found to be dyslexic while still quite young. Finding regular, written learning a challenge, once discovered, dance became his key language of communication. Now an Ambassador for the charity Dyslexia Action, the headline dance Murmur 2.0, choreographed by Lewis Major and Odedra, explores the condition and its perceived, warped and exaggerated realities.
Five silk drapes now, encircled by a number of electric fans. A man sits, working things out, counting out loud One, Two Three, Four, then in Urdu, Ek, Do, Teen, Chaar. He makes mistakes, he’s slow. Hand shapes correspond with each number then a hand stops working, goes dead. As inert as a dead bird, the wrist hangs lifeless. The dancer speaks to us.
“How long does it take to correct a mistake? 10 seconds, 10 minutes, 10 years, 21 years?”
He makes mistakes with his legs, his body. He walks on bent toes to squeamish responses from the audience. That’s not the right way to walk. He’s learning to spell his name out loud: A – K – A – S – H, but we learn he only discovered at 21 that there was an extra A in AAKASH despite it being there all the time.
After ceremonially straightening the silk drapes to create a partition, a screen, all of a sudden a swirl of small, animated birds fly upwards and over him. This is when we discover tonight’s multi-media possibilities bringing with it a heightened fascination.
Dancing behind this diaphanous partition, real-time visual tricks expand the dancer’s reality and his self-awareness. An ingenious camera technology tracks Odedra’s every move to play it a split second later against the screen as a scratchy, moving line drawing that grows as big as a Yeti. The variations at play are downright exciting and its thrilling to see dance, the art form, unafraid of appearing polluted. The soundtrack by Nicki Wells and music supervisor Nitin Sawhney, is strong and imposing but has sadness.
Finding some calm, and moving towards the climax with a metaphorical sun setting through lighting, a single A4 sheet of paper falls from the heavens, following by more to create a downpour. Catching each one of them, Odedra is no longer frightened by the page but there is still room for overwhelm that comes when all fans are turned on creating a whirlwind of literacy. Having found the once missing A of his name, he loses it again amidst the swirling updrafts, causing a frantic panic. With a dark stage, vortexing blue lit smoke and a nightmare of projected chalk drawings that show a bird in a cage, then out free, followed by an almost Hitchcockian raging murmur of birds on the wing, our dancer is like Saint-Exupéry’s, The Little Prince that I see referenced in the chalk drawings, his long scarf outstretched with birds flying on leashes.
The struggle to remain in control despite not interpreting word shapes on the page as others do, to fly with the birds and keep in formation, is expressed in the overwhelming, heightened emotions, as everything comes gently to rest again as this wildly imaginative dance expression draws to its end. As the appreciative audience is loud with cheers and awe, Aakash Odedra Company’s second visit to Newport this year further secures their reputation as a bright light in UK Dance.
Read the original review in Art Scene in Wales
Echoes and I Imagine – World Premiere – Curve
Posted on 10th Oct 2015
By Trevor Locke
The solo dance performance of Aakash Odedra tonight was sensational. I have not seen male dance of this calibre since I last saw Rudolf Nureyev in the 1970s. Odedra’s first piece was a stunning performance based on the Indian classical dance genre Kathak. Dancing to the choreography of Aditi Mangaldas, Odedra demonstrated the sublime artistry of his abilities, with movements that had razor-sharp timing, perfectly synchronised with the music. The work opened with with gloriously evocative sounds creating a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere, heightened by the lighting and the floor of the stage being spread with long filaments of golden threads studies with tiny bells, laid out to look like the ripples of a lake.
The piece drew on the image and symbol of bells, which hung from the top of the stage in clusters of long strings. As the programme notes explained ‘The resonance of the bells awaken us to the now. A breath and senses awakens. LIFE awakens me.’ The Kathak dance form is story-telling in motion. The elaborate footwork, enhanced by bells, attached to the ankles, was characteristic of the dance form; Odedra pulled down two of the long strands of bells and wound them around his ankles before proceeding to display amazing footwork, in his bare feet. In something that Western audiences would recognise as tap dancing, he also used his feet as percussion instruments, drumming on the stage, producing sequences of intricate rhythms. Echoes is a work that plays with the idea of bells, their tradition in classical dance, their ritualistic significance and their potential as a metaphor for freedom and awakening.
The piece also included many of the spinning movements – the chakkars – so characteristic of classical Kathak. What Mangaldas has done is to bring the ancient art form into the 21st century without losing any of its resonance and vibrancy. Some of Odedra’s spins were like those of an ice skater; he has a fluidity of movement that is remarkable but he combined this with dynamics that are amazing. All the time we watch those extraordinarily impressive hand movements, the fingers that wave and flutter like the wings of a bird. It was like seeing dance from another planet; something that moves forward what we understand about solo dance. Utterly enthralling and spellbinding throughout.
Echoes celebrated the form of classical Kathak, but the second piece – I Imagine – brought a totally new approach and direction to the stage. In it, Odedra demonstrated his sense of humour, his consummate capacity for entertaining his audience. It was another demonstration of his story-telling powers, using mime, antics and even spoken word to engage us in a meditation on the theme of travel and migration (very topical.) Odedra came on to a stage stacked with suitcases – like the bells, another evocative metaphor. This piece used a variety of masks to signify characters, not unlike those used by actors in classical Greek drama, I thought. At the beginning of the piece, one of the larger suitcases begins to move and Odedra emerges from it, foot by foot, leg by leg, rather like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. It reminded me of Ernest being found in a handbag. The story goes on to depict arriving in a new country, migration to a new and alien culture, the feelings evoking loss of homeland, leaving behind the ones that are loved, the challenges of accommodating a new style of life. And then Odedra does something totally innovative for a dancer – he engaged in a spoken monologue in which he used surprising skills of characterisation, speaking in accents to bring his characters to life, much to the amusement of the audience. It was a sequence that bore similarities to stand-up comedy, recollecting the Kumars, I thought. Towards the end of the piece, Odedra walked across the top of a line of suitcases, having used them beforehand to make an armchair and a house. It was a gleeful deployment of the props and one that took us a long way from the previous classical dance routines.
I Imagine included spoken word by the celebrated Sabrina Mahfouz, the British Egyptian poet, playwright and performer who was born in South London. Odedra’s collaboration with the award-winning Mahfouz created a work that was supremely one of theatre, one that gave us dance, drama, comedy and gymnastics. It reminded me of my previous experience at Curve when I saw Bromance, the production by the Barley Methodical Troupe that created a new genre of dance and gymnastics. Odedra commissioned the masks used in this production from circus practitioner David Poznanter (it must have been the association of circus that conjured the idea of the work by the Barley Methodical Troupe in my mind.)
Tonight’s World Premier of Echoes and I Imagine crowns the previous appearance made by Odedra at Curve, including Inked and Murmer in 2014.
Speaking after the performance, Odedra paid tribute to his teacher, the internationally renown Kathak dancer Nilema Devi MBE.
Aakash was commissioned by Curve Theatre in Leicester to choreograph a piece for the opening of the theatre in November 2008. This piece, called “Flight” was the only one invited to perform for HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on their visit in December 2008
Aakash Odedra was raised in Leicester and his company is based here.
Curve has over the years given us so much that is new and exciting in the arts and tonight was no exception.
This entry was originally published at http://www.artsinleicestershire.co.uk/ in News on March 12, 2016
Aditi Mangaldas (Echoes) and Aakash Odedra and Sabrina Mahfouz (I Imagine)
Aakash Odedra Company
Curve Theatre, Leicester
From 09 October 2015 to 10 October 2015
Review by Sally Jack
New work by award-winning Aakash Odedra always generates a flurry of excitement and expectation, such is his reputation for stunning, innovative dance. A coup for Curve then as it hosts the world première of its associate artist’s two newest pieces, Echoes and I Imagine.
In Echoes, Odedra returns to his roots in kathak, a traditional classical Indian dance (where kathak translates as ’storyteller’). Under ropes of golden bells cascading from the ceiling, stage left as well as snaking across the stage, Odedra responds and reacts to these traditional bells in an intriguing representation of the form.
Appearing in a conical shaft of golden light, Odedra swirls ghungroos (the traditional bells usually wrapped around dancers’ ankles) within the confines of the light beam and to Shubha Mudgal’s plaintive song.
Odedra is at times a whirling dervish, maybe not such an incongruous choice of words given kathak has absorbed and influenced the dance forms of other cultures over the centuries.
This piece is not just about spins—integral as they are to the dance form—but a reflection on awakening and challenges to tradition. With complex rhythmic patterns stamped out with his feet and sometimes hands (echoes of flamenco’s roots) together with expressive and sensual hand movements, the phrasing of the dance allowed moments of high energy and calm, light and shade.
One small point is several parts of the dance took place downstage right with Odedra seated or prostrate, obscuring sightlines for a large proportion of the audience.
Odedra is a graceful, expressive dancer, slight yet strong and this, combined with Aditi Mangaldas’s inventive choreography, Fabiana Piccioli’s golden light beams, the stirring rhythms and the shimmer as Odedra played the bell ropes is a mesmerising experience.
After a short interval, the stage is re-set for I Imagine, a collaboration with another award-winning writer and spoken word performer, Sabrina Mahfouz. It would be wrong to let slip a spoiler for the Houdini-like start to this piece; suffice to say it took the whole audience by surprise.
Using various sized-suitcases and three masks, Odedra again tells a story. Aided by Mahfouz’s poetry played on an audio track or sometimes said by Odedra, he manages to be both playful and poignant as he characterises the experiences of those who find they must leave their home, often with no more than one suitcase. In one particularly clever sequence, the hopes and aspirations of first, second and third generation migrants are portrayed through minimal but expert physical theatre and voice.
Odedra takes us on many journeys here, creating escape tunnels and busy streets simply through clever use of a few suitcases. The sequence portraying imprisonment and enslavement using only his t-shirt and trousers was stunning and almost too uncomfortable to watch.
In these troubled times of mass movement of people, this is a particularly affecting and apt piece. “Home is where the hope is,” was a repeated refrain along with: “for us, when it rains at home it means something, it has purpose. Here it is monotonous and grey.” Both get straight to the heart of I Imagine: what does it mean to an individual, a culture to move? And how do the communities receiving these migrants react?
Answers are not provided here; this is a piece to stimulate thought as well as marvel at what this dancer, poet and production have achieved.
Posted on October 12, 2015
By The Version
At the end of an Indian summer, it was a real treat to be invited along to the Curve Theatre in Leicester for the world premiere of Aakash Odedra’s new show, Echoes and I Imagine.
Aakash Odedra is widely regarded as a rising star, and is part of an exciting new generation of British dancers/choreographers, having been mentored by top artists including Akram Khan. He was born in Birmingham and trained in classical Indian dance styles of Kathak and Bharat Natyam, which he infuses with contemporary styles in his dance and choreography.
The full range of Aakash’s dancing abilities are on show for Echoes, an energetic piece of Kathak dance, choreographed by icon Aditi Mangaldas, that explores relationships with our ancestors. It starts with Aakash in the far left of the stage, whirling ghunghru (small bells tied to string – you can see these at the start of the trailer on youtube) around his body. In the stage setting, further ghunghru are strewn across the floor and hung from the ceiling in the far right. As the piece evolves, Aakash collects in the strewn ghunghru, clearing space on the floor where he then dazzles us with his Kathak dance, which combines elegant hand and arm movement with rhythmic footwork and tapping. Traditional music accompanies the piece, embellishing the experience and immersing the audience in Indian culture.
A short interval allowed us to enjoy a drop of wine courtesy of the Curve whilst discussing our interpretations of Echoes, and gave Aakash a well-earned chance to catch his breath. After the interval, came I Imagine, a self-choreographed piece that was in stark contrast to Echoes, being far more contemporary and performed to spoken word by Sabrina Mahfouz. It tells the story of three characters and their experience of migration, in a symbolic way where the stage is setup with three collections of suitcases. Aakash transitions between the three characters by the use of his body, combined with entertaining impersonations and the use of exaggerated masks.
Whereas the first piece was quite open to interpretation, the second piece is a poignant and provocative look at migration, from the perspective of the migrant. Both pieces were entertaining, yet they challenged the audience to look beyond the performance, and ultimately left us wanting to see more from the talented Aakash Odedra.