Kassh Riveting Epic Journey of Enigmatic Beauty

Nélida Nassar   04.24.2014

Beirut International Platform of Dance (Bipod) with the support from the British Council in Lebanon presented for two consecutive evenings Akram Khan, British choreographer of Bangladeshi origin, major work “Kassh.” The full length piece ever performed by the company was created and choreographed in 2002. Khan gave it new energy with a revival for a cast of five dancers in 2015. “Kassh” meaning (If only in Hindi) also combines the talents of two Indian-British artists of great renown sculptor Anish Kapoor and world music composer Nitin Sawhney. A seminal piece, it fuses two dance styles contemporary with classical traditional northern Indian Kathak. It is a dizzying mix of Asian and western and a beautiful evocation of Hindu Gods Ganesh, Krishna and Shiva. The spectacle dynamic combination of movements, music and stage design as well as its writing virtuosity addresses the various meanings and interpretations of 
the origin of the world with at its centre the figure of Shiva, the goddess of genesis, destruction and renewal.

Composed of several sequences, the piece of transcendent and mesmerizing beauty transports the viewer at the gates of modern India. It opens with Sung Hoon Kim – shirtless with his back to the audience waiting soundlessly for an unnatural length of time. Once the dance take off, the performers engage us in sharp, swift and precise movements. First, there are the arms, drawing as if a live calligraphy reaching towards the sky, then whirling and streaking the space with karate styled gestures. The hands are stretched, they bent in sharp moves that flow in cascading ruffles. And then there are the legs that constantly spins, pirouettes, interspersed with sudden pauses. Tai chi style lunges, swift tumbling, rolls to the floor formation, solo and duets are reoccurring images pulsating through Sawhney’s tumultuous drumming and chanting score. A welcome reprieve are the transition segments, silent meditative moments prior to the rebounding piercing drums’ tone. Dressed in Kimie Nakano’s reimagined classic Indian black cotton dresses over leggings for the women and skirts with leggings for the two shirtless men. The accomplished dancers showed exceptional virtuosity, accuracy, strength and flawless concentration in particular spectacular sisters Kristina and Sadé Alleyne and sinuous Sung Hoon Kim with his back rippling and undulating in the dance closing scene.

Khan possess the talent characteristic of musicals’ masters attested by his closely constructed choreography, integrating great fluidity and impressive manipulation of the space. The scenography signed Anish Kapoor Rothkoesque double rectangular backdrop magnifies the interpretation, transporting the viewer in a kind of hypnotic and ecstatic state. Aideen Malone’s lighting design handsomely hold its own, often side lighting dancers, bathing the floor, or altering with changing colors the backdrop. The brilliance of the dance and the absorbing visual conveyed by the staging makes “Kassh” weaves a captivating dialogue between the mental and the physical, the tangible and the intangible. Until the last seconds of the spectacle, the public and the dancers lives in unison this powerful performance. Everything is there to seduce: the bodies’ plasticity, the various sequences with their mastery of timing, the very rhythmic, almost tribals dance, a combination of team drill, martial arts, and spinning tops. “Kassh” metaphor of creation transforms the piece into indelible images even if it fails in the arousal of emotional connectivity and transcendance Sufi whirling, turning dervishes evoke.

Artistic Direction and Choreography: Akram Khan
Composer: Nitin Sawhney
Set Design: Anish Kapoor
Lighting Design: Aideen Malone
Costume Design: Kimie Nakano

Additional Music: ‘Spectre’ by John Oswald played by The Kronos Quartet
Voice: Akram Khan, B C Manjunath
Sound Recording: Bernhard Schimpelsberger

Produced by: Farooq Chaudhry

Revival for 5 dancers
Performed by: Kristina Alleyne, Sadé Alleyne, Sung Hoon Kim, Nicola Monaco, Sarah Cerneaux

Rehearsal Director: Andrej Petrovic
Technical Director: Richard Fagan
Technicians: Alex Castro, Peter Swikker
Tour Manager: Mashitah Omar

With the support of Eulalia Ayguade Farro, Moya Michael and Yen-Ching Lin and the Arts Council England

Photo credit: Jean Louis Fernandez