Rising –  Aakash Odedra Company, 26 September, Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford Playhouse

Aakash Odedra is an extraordinary dancer and it is not surprising that other choreographers have chosen to create works on his body.  In Rising we saw a solo by Aakash Odedra himself followed by three others by Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant, and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

The evening began with Aakash Odedra’s own work Mohe Apne Hi Rang Mein, a piece drawing on Kathak tradition, and remarkable for its fluidity and precision.  Akram Khan’s In the Shadow of Man was a shocking contrast to this classicism.  It opens with a horrifying scream and the dance is more animal than human, using a range of movement that only a physique as weirdly supple and lithe as Aakash Odedra’s could deliver.  At the start he crouches, emerging from shadows, his bony back towards the audience, and dances with just his shoulder blades.  As the dance develops, and he utters animal cries, his feline movement evokes creatures that crawl, hop, roll and spin in a manner both gripping and disturbing to watch.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Constellation was not completely successful, partly due to some technical problems.  Set with lights suspended from the ceiling and hanging low, this was a difficult space to work in, but there were some beautiful moments as Aakash Odedra illuminated the bulbs one by one.  Although it was an interesting work, I should have liked to have seen more focus on the dance, and less awareness of the props.

For me, CUT (Maliphant) was the sensation of the evening.  Subtly lit by Michael Hulls, the dancer emerged and faded in and out of curtains of light and shadow, playing with the darkness and seeming to suspend shadows from his hands and pull on them as if they were puppet strings.  In this solo, Aakash Odedra, with his musicality, speed and stillness, rhythmic whirling, focus and accuracy gave an inspiring performance of a mesmerising work.

One small aside:  the programme looked wonderful, and was carefully prepared, but I found the tiny white typeface on the dark background hard to decipher, particularly in the semi-darkness of the auditorium.  I should like to put in a plea for better legibility.

Maggie Watson

26 September 2012 (rev. 28/9/12)