‘Kaash’ means ‘if only’ in Hindi, and Kaash (Revival) begins ambiguously, blurring the boundary between performers and audience.  A dancer stands upstage right, broad shouldered and narrow waisted like an archaic statue, his back to the hubbub of the fully-lit auditorium as people settle into their seats.  His intense stillness, followed by a sudden blackout before a thunderous outburst of sound, light and movement is a magnificent piece of theatre, but Kaash (Revival), which forms part of the Southbank’s delayed celebration of Ravi Shankar’s 100th birthday, is far more than a dramatic entertainment.

Inspired by an exploration of aspects of the Hindu god Shiva, choreographer Akram Khan, designer Anish Kapoor and composer Nitin Sawhney have created a work that draws together ideas from myth and mysticism, maths and physics, science and religion.  The dance holds opposite forces together in unity and tension: sound and silence, form and chaos, light and darkness.

Five dancers, the three men wearing long, priestly skirts, the two women in black tunics and mid-calf leggings, moved throughout as if they felt an inner rhythmic pulse.  Khan’s choreography contains classical precision and virtuosity within a free and dynamic flow of movement, which is firmly grounded, energetic and accurate.  Changes in light, music and sound further delineated the episodic structure of the dance, with its shifts between violence and lyricism; power and grace.

A rectangle of light projected onto the back wall seemed to frame a fathomless black hole, while shadows cast in parallel lines across the stage, complex drum beats, and Kathak tatkaar spoken rhythms transformed mythic content to abstraction.  The dancers (Sadé Alleyne, Sarah Cerneaux, Sung Hoon Kim, Nicola Monaco, and Jasper Narvaez) seemed like particles, spinning through infinity, in a universal cosmos of creation and destruction that we seek to understand, but cannot fully explain.

Maggie Watson

24th April 2022