Aakash Odedra Company: Echoes & I Imagine – The Lowry, Salford
Posted on 16th February 2016
By The Reviews Hub – North West
Choreography: Aditi Mangaldas, Aakash Odedra
Music: Shubha Mudgal & Aneesh Pradhan, Nicki Wells
Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Following on from his successful first double bill Murmur and Inked, Aakash Odedra presents the world premiere of a new double bill – Echoes and I Imagine. Aakash Odedra is one of the leading British Kathak dancers and dance creators, who, like Akram Khan, who has mentored him, is taking this style of classical Indian dance – which incorporates storytelling, movement and mine – blending it with rich threads of contemporary dance to create a hybrid form that acknowledges tradition and creates modern dance theatre appealing and accessible to a wider audience.
Echoes is the more ‘traditional’ of the two: created with renowned Kathak dance and choreographer Aditi Mangaldas. Echoes draws on thematic ideas of bells – a constant presence for Kathak dancers – and the interconnectedness between tradition and ritual – and how this relates to modernity and personal freedom. Echoes is strikingly and beautifully lit by Fabiana Piccioli, who creates a golden stage drenched in haze and shadow and filtered sunlight. A shower of golden rope bells creates further visual interest and sound, responding to Odedra’s slightest touch. The traditional music and song by Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan is pleasingly loud and crystal clear, which creates a sense of excitement and presence. The choreography sees Odedra make full use of the stage with expansive and thoughtful sections of mime and effortlessly-fast twisting and twirling dance, broken by long moments of stillness. Echoes is exotic and evocative, visually and theatrically lavish with an appealing austere spirituality.
I Imagine, created and choreographed by Odedra – with text from spoken word artist Sabrina Mahfouz – is less-‘traditional’ and more dance theatre in nature. Again effectively lit by Piccioli, this piece utilises finely-crafted crafted character masks by David Poznanter and mounds of luggage – flight labels fluttering – and spoken text, to construct and explore narratives of migration – considering issues of fear, reluctance, intolerance, assimilation and nostalgia for home. This is fine-tuned by the new lens of the current migration crisis, where some second- and third-generation communities are perhaps unwelcoming to new migrants facing what they once faced and overcame. Characterised by thoughtful stillness with sections of considered and sometimes vigorous movement, I Imagine is perhaps slightly undermined by the absence of the rich dance content that made Echoes so appealing. Good use is made of humour and mime and staging though, and the audience are offered some clear perspectives and small narratives without the work becoming polemical or didactic: it is instead questioning and thoughtful.
Aakash Odedra continues to produce interesting, intriguing and accessible work that is meaningfully exploring the theatrical potential of Kathak as a style of contemporary dance that remains fully-mindful of its traditional roots. Hopefully his young company will continue to grow and collaborate with contemporary and traditional creative practitioners and he may yet give the almighty Akram Khan a run for his money.
Reviewed on 16 February 2016
Rising – Aakash Odedra: Robin Howard Dance Theatre, The Place, London; 25 February 2012
Posted on February 26, 2012
Astonishing young British South Asian dancer Aakash Odedra is something to behold. Given the inestimable honour of having three new solos created for him by some of the top contemporary choreographers working in the UK (Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui) he opens his first solo show, Rising, with a work of his own.
Nritta demonstrates Odedra’s background in Kathak, a form of Indian classical dance, to mesmerising effect. He has exquisite use of the hands and incredibly fast feet; there’s one amazing sequence where his feet are pneumatically flapping up and down so quickly that he appears to be hovering several inches off the floor. His whirling turns, a feature of the whole night, are dramatically served with a minimum of fuss and his musicality is a delight.
Whereas Odedra’s hands in Nritta are a joyful form of expression, in Akram Khan’s In The Shadow Of Men, they seem to intentionally inhibit him; his whole arm appears to be coming loose at the sockets in its attempt to break away from his body. With a series of weirdly spooky squawks he painfully transforms into a stick-like insect and then a chimp before cowering back into his foetal opening position. It’s utterly compelling.
Thanks largely to Michael Hulls’ slice ‘n’ dice lighting Russell Maliphant’s Cut is a breathtaking piece. A pulsing sci-fi corridor of light creates a prison for Odedra to move seamlessly around in; a sequence that ends in the narrowest of spotlights in which he holds a back-bend for an eternity. Again, the hands play a leading part in creating ethereally thin shadows and there’s a beautiful sequence of turns that slice right through the beams of light from one side of the stage to the other.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s visually stunning Constellation concludes Rising in dream-like fashion. Numerous lightbulbs are strung about the stage for Odedra to wander contemplatively amongst accompanied by a whooshing great soundtrack from Olga Wojciechowska. Eventually he settles on one bulb which he sits meditatively behind while all the others start to flash like a million ideas exploding in his head; an invigorating image on which to end.
Not only was Rising a marvellously conceived and supremely well-executed show but what impressed most was Odedra’s ability to adopt each piece’s different mood and present a total understanding of just what it was he was performing. A physically slight man with a smooth, fluid style, he has a gentle, self-effacing charisma that filled the Robin Howard Theatre and gave the distinct impression that we were witnessing someone quite extraordinary.
Aakash won a performance award at the 2014 Infant Festival in Novi-Sad, Serbia. The category being, ‘Most Original Exploration of One Segment of Theatrical Language’. The performance took place on 1st July 2014. We would like to thank the choreographers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Akram Khan and Russell Maliphant for making Rising such a wonderful dance experience for the company and audiences alike.
12th May 2014 – Aakash will be in London working with dancers from The Royal Ballet developing a dance piece to be shown in September 2014 at the Linbury Studios. Aakash will be working with Turner Prize winning artist Chris Offili on the project.
6th/7th May 2014 – Aakash Odedra Company premieres the new works Murmur (Aakash Odedra Company, Lewis Major, Ars Electronica) and Inked (Damien Jalet) at DanceXchange part of International Dance Festival Birmingham.
2nd May 2014 – Aakash Odedra performs in Concert Danse produced by DanceXchange as part of International Dance festival Birmingham. A large scale project which includes choreography by Helen Blackburn and David Massingham and a cast which includes Birmingham Royal Ballet and contemporary dancers based in Canada and the UK.
30th April – Aakash Odedra Company arrives in Birmingham for the production week of Murmur and Inked.