News > Spoleto 2016 Review: Aakash Odedra Company

aakash-odedra-company_23501874894_oBy Stacy Huggins | Images courtesy Spoleto Festival USA

Keeping an audience captive for an hour and 15 minutes is a challenge for any performer, but for a solo dancer, it is a feat of great proportions. Aakash Odedra took command of the stage at Emmett Robinson Theater for one of the most mesmerizing and suspenseful dance performances of the festival.

Born in England and trained in classical Indian dance styles Kathak and Bhrata Natyam, Odedra formed Aakash Odedra Company in 2011. Rising, which Odedra brings to Spoleto Festival, has toured extensively across the globe. Comprised of four pieces by four different choreographers, including Odedra himself, it is an incredible exploration of unfamiliar movement layered in cultural contexts, executed with definitive precision.

Nritta, which means pure dance, is the most traditional of the four pieces, using classical Indian sounds and movements. Odedra occupies the entire stage and his movement very closely matches the music arrangement, following the structure of a traditional Kathak dance style.  Choreography and music arrangement were both created by Odedra, who punctuates both the sound and movement with slapping noises made by the arches of his feet. At times, the down-emphasis motion of the feet slapping reminded me of Celtic dancing or clogging which was so popular in American in the late 1990’s. It was strange to be reminded of that God-awful trend by a performance that was so arresting, both contemporary and  beautiful.

aakash-odedra-company_24047497981_oIn the Shadow of Man was choreographed by Akram Khan, and was startlingly creepy, yet compelling. Between the first work and this, the audience was plunged into darkness and silence for an inordinate length of time. It felt like being in a sensory deprivation tank, a strange feeling considering you know that dozens of people are seated all around you. An amber-colored light finally began to illuminate Odedra upstage, crouched in a ball, his thin frame clad only in gauzy pants. The light was still incredibly dim, so it was difficult to tell when he actually began moving, and the movement was frightfully disarming. Literally, it looked like was going to dislocate his shoulder or sprout a wing, Black Swan style. Odedra also made primal frightful noises that punctuated the performance, and the total summation created a tension-filled battle of our own animalistic properties battling within his human form. The title made perfect sense, particularly when coupled with the choreographer’s notes in the program.

Odedra gave a superior performance with Cut, choreographed by Russell Maliphant. His controlled movements were magical and suspenseful, made even more dramatic by the use of light to tightly define a world with its own boundaries and leaving the rest of the stage plunged in darkness. Odedra’s contemporary take on traditional Indian dance brings the signature spin that is a highlight of the performance. As Odedra would spin just out of range of the bright light, his hands would slice through the light in a motion that was both beautiful and a little menacing, reminding me of a horror film where the victim is caught in the sights of a rotating saw blade, pointlessly trying to scuttle away as the sharp, flashing steel just edges closer and closer…but Odedra’s movements are still beautiful. It’s this new level of tension–created by movement, music, and lighting–is just as prominent as the flamboyant leaps, pirouettes, or fouettes of classical ballet. The tension between movement and sound takes the place of the standard classical ballet ‘Wow’ factor, but in an unfamiliar and unnerving way. Cut is the standout work of Rising.

The final performance of the evening was Constellations, composed by Sidi Larbi Cherakoui. This piece was more of a theatrical performance than dance, per se. Odedra walked the stage, the energy from his hands seeming to light the suspended orbs hanging around the stage at all different lengths. Once his movement began it was clear that he was the center or locus of this created little universe, and his activation of objects brought life the stage. The glowing lights were mesmerizing, and I caught myself staring at them in wonderment and fascination, reminded of how my friend’s baby daughter does the same. The childlike wonder and other-worldliness that Odedra elicited and created respectively was incredibly special. It is a great honor to have him perform at Spoleto Festival USA.

Aakash Odedra Company at Emmett Robinson Theater at the College of Charleston: June 2, 6pM; June 3, 6PM; June 4, 5 PM; June 5, 5PM.
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Posted on June 2, 2016 by admin.

Categories: Performing Arts, Review

Tags: Aakash Odedra, Aakash Odedra Company, Akram Khan, Constellations, Cut, In The Shadow Of Man, Nritta, Rising, Russell Maliphant, Sidi Larbi Cherakoui

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