Akram Khan Dance Company: Desh

10 October, 2011

Saddler’s Wells Theatre, Oct 2011

Akram Khan’s latest offering to the contemporary dance world is truly the sort of thing you see once in a lifetime.  Ok, that’s overlooking the fact that it’s coming back to Saddler’s Wells next year – so you’ll be able to see it once in your lifetime as well as me.

The most amazing thing about it is the feeling of honesty and love.  I don’t mean that in a “luvvie” type of way.  He takes us on what initially appears to be his journey from growing up a standard British “youf” bickering with his Pakistani father.  But as the story unfolds, it’s his father’s journey that becomes the deeper storyline in Desh.  Touching it is too.  Within this we are both transported right into the midst of a traditional fairy tale and then challenged with reality of Pakistani child workers – working for us..  Well, you can’t say he didn’t fit a lot in, can you?

If the story telling is magical, then the visual feast of Khan at his most creative and beautiful dancing us through it is more than breathtaking.   The other lovely thing about Khan is that he doesn’t desert his sense of humour when spinning his silken yarns.  I laughed and cried during this performance.   The amazing visual effects, designed by Timmy Yip (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) enable Khan to climb animated trees and dance through the sky, proper dancing with the stars it was.  It’s spell binding.  All of the animated “front drops” he uses were hand sketches, every few seconds requiring thousands of drawings, and the animated scene lasts at least ten minutes.  The work behind it is staggering.  I sat and watched and couldn’t really believe the beauty unfolding on the stage in front of me.

Joscelyn Pook (Eyes Wide Shut, Massive Attack) composed the music, and interesting and haunting blend of vocals often mixed with ecclesiastical undertones, this turns Khan’s piece into a truly multidimensional masterpiece.

I first saw Khan some twelve years ago, then a talented classical Indian dancer in the Kattak school.  He would dance and at the end his Guru (teacher) would stand up and accept the applause.  I didn’t see his Guru last night, although he might well have been there.  But what I did see, was how Khan’s early roots have stood him in good ground for all that grown out of him since.  He has kept the grace of his early performances, despite being 37 (aged in the world of dance) and kept the dignity and respect of the culture he was trained in.  Although now in his dancing we have occasional glimpses of his traditional pieces – I have to say I find his newer work fresher and speaks louder to us, his generation.

To sit in the theatre and watch Desh is like an amazing dream or what an acid trip should be but isn’t.  Informative, beautiful, unreal, meaningful and moving.  Take a Khan trip once in your lifetime, go on try it, but beware you might get addicted.


3 Responses to “Akram Khan Dance Company: Desh”

  1. very cool description. I want to see it now 🙂 Thank you !!!

  2. Nurun Says:

    It is really good to see a programme on TV about our desh thanks to you Akram. Good luck with the future x

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