Home » London Dance » Review – Akram Khan Company : Kaash at Sadler’s Wells – 3rd March 2016

Review – Akram Khan Company : Kaash at Sadler’s Wells – 3rd March 2016


Akram Khan - Kaash (cred. Louis Fernandez) (16)

Akram Khan – Kaash (photo Louis Fernandez)

There was a sense of anticipation at Sadler’s Wells for the revival of Akram Khan’s Kaash which premiered in 2002 to critical acclaim. Kaash was his company’s first full-length work with contributions from the respective talents of Anish Kapoor and Nitin Sawhney.

Kaash (the Hindi word for “if only”) is part of Khan’s exploration of contemporary dance and the Indian classical dance form kathak and was inspired by “Hindu Gods, black holes, Indian time cycles, tablas, creation and destruction” .

The beginning of the piece involves Sung Hoon Kim walking and standing motionless in front of  a huge painting by set designer Anish Kapoor which is hung on the back of the stage. The blackness of the painting seems to illuminated by the surrounding colours to create a slightly unreal scene that seemed to bemuse the audience before they are jolted into life by the arrival of the four other dancers who appear to a pounding drumbeat score. Whilst Sung Hoon Kim still remains motionless, the four dancers launch into a frantic dance with rapid spins and arms extending and cutting through the air with hand gestures that reflect aspects of kathak dance.

Akram Khan - Kaash (cred. Louis Fernandez) (5)

Akram Khan – Kaash (photo Louis Fernandez)

Rather than following any particular narrative, the dancers are propelled around the stage in bursts of energy which allows them to attract and repel each other. The pounding soundtrack by Nitin Sawhney is an intrinsic part of the piece providing an ever moving soundscape that the dancers interpret and respond too. After the frenetic beginning, the pace changes considerably with a slow intense solo for Kim before the other dancers move into more primitive and ritualistic movements. There are moments of no background music at all in which the dancers breathing and footsteps became audible which gives some understanding of the pure physicality of the dance.

Akram Khan - Kaash (cred. Louis Fernandez) (6)

Akram Khan – Kaash (photo Louis Fernandez)

From primitive, the work moves into a more modern view of the universe, disembodied voices are heard, the dancers carry out group rhythmic movements to the chants of seeming nonsense. The stage suddenly vibrates to deafeningly loud music and pulsating lights, the black backdrop is bathed in red light to give a sinister aspect to the whole experience. The dancers return to the original movements of rapid turns and flailing arms but now it is the turn of the four dancers to stand motionless before the black void and it is left to Kim to make a series of slow intricate movements before darkness descends.

Akram Khan - Kaash (cred. Louis Fernandez) (8)

Akram Khan – Kaash (photo Louis Fernandez)

Kaash is a wildly ambitious abstract work that places enormous responsibility on the dancers, Kristina Alleyne, Sadé Alleyne, Sarah Cerneaux, Nicola Monaco and Sung Hoon Kim who deserve considerable credit for maintaining the necessary skills and intensity over the period of the show. The simple black costumes by Kimie Nakano with swirling skirts of black fabric accentuated the athletic physicality of the dancers with elements that were reminiscent of kathak dance costumes.

Although this updated version is slightly different from the 2002 version, the audience enthusiastic reaction suggests it will be positively received and provides a reminder of the remarkable talent and ambition of Akram Khan, Anish Kapoor and Nitin Sawhney who well over a decade ago began to seek to explore some of the secrets of the universe within an abstract dance form.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or book tickets, visit the Sadler’s Wells website here

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