Echoes & I Imagine – The Lowry, Salford – Review

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

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