akram khan: outwitting the devil. A morbif affair which flirts with thw tales of Gilgamesh.

TAPAC, December 11, 2021

Photos: Jean- Louis Fernandez

Akram Khan Company had performed here few times before and left behind memorable impressions and a strong impact.  Khan is known to be innovative, with affinity to ethnic cultures and compassion to nature which feed his artistic curiosity.

His latest creation- Outwitting The Devil, is set in dark ambiance with mid-storm mood enhanced by Vincenzo Lamagna music and sound design.   The prolonged tempestuous sounds controlled the level of intensity on stage.  Two elements influenced the making of 'Outwitting'; the  particular point in time when  the pandemic had affected the lives of millions and coincided with Khan's decision to give up his own active dancing, his life-long calling.

Born in England to Bangladeshi family, Khan grew up with two main cultures and dance disciplines; the classical Kathak and contemporary dance. He intertwined both practices in varied measures which became the strong and central pillars of his creative choreographic landscapes.

 His inherent barometer had directed him towards one of the earlier written myths – a long time well of inspiration for him- as he focused on the gory Mesopotamian tales of Gilgamesh, carved 3500 years ago on hardened clay tablets.

There were only six dancers on the big semi-dark stage yet the eyes were mostly glued to three men with compelling presence entangled in their animalistic interactions. Those dancers performed the more impressive solos and duets, depicting larger than life figures in that ancient story. They, along the other dancers followed Khan's unusual body perception outlines. This tiime, he instill in their bodies powerful, often brutal moves which seemed to freeze in midair  assuming  ancient sculptures-like quality. His outstanding attention on minute details was absolutely captivating.

The presence of dramatic lighting design and overpowering sound effects strengthened the eerie mood on stage, and the dancers inventive use of the body with compelling movements of hand and fingers gestures- depicting their state of mind- gave a surreal impression which belong to bygone eons. Although in this work, most of the movement' lexicon is derived from contemporary dance perceptions, on more subtle levels, traces of the ethnic dance were present, as a layer over or under his basic contemporary approach, and enriched it.

Now, when Khan can celebrate decades of artistic success and world recognition, he came up with one of his more ambitious projects. This work dares to stare at one of humanity evil  moments as it prays for the sublime.