Despite its sad subject, Aisha and Abhaya is a contemporary fairytale set in a fantastical world, to be conjured up through a multi-sensorial blend of film, dance, animations and powerful music.
A collaboration between two of Britain’s most prestigious dance companies, Rambert and the Royal Ballet, in association with BBC Films, Aisha and Abhaya is directed by the London-based film director Kibwe Tavares, winner of the 2012 Special Jury Award at Sundance.
Tavares creates futuristic 3D animated/live action films that establish vivid, kinetic visual environments, and contributes this very special element to Aisha and Abhaya, which also marks his debut as a theatre director.
Choreography comes from Sharon Eyal, who’s become familiar to London dance audiences over the past few years, not least because of her work with Rambert. Her powerful, emotion-laden movement is driven by a pounding musical score by her regular collaborator Ori Lichtik and the London-based musician GAIKA.
A group of 16 Rambert dancers will perform, among them Hannah Rudd, who spoke to Culture Whisper about the peculiar structure of Aisha and Abhaya and the challenges it poses.
Hannah Rudd in rehearsal for Aisha & Abhaya. Photo: Pierre Tappon
'There's some dancing in the film but it's more about story-telling. We recreate the journey of the sisters, so those clips of the film will appear throughout the piece. In this work the narrative is particularly important, because it's being directed by a film director, and then the dance is a sensuous experience, sometimes abstract, especially with Sharon Eyal's choreography.
'The dance will give you that sensuous experience and you will feel from that, but then I think it's really important to relate the narrative, and the film really succinctly draws you into the story.'
Having a huge film projection behind the dancers on stage adds the impression of large streams of humanity, of which the refugee sisters are a part, says Hannah Rudd: 'There's a relatively small group of dancers on stage; and we did a motion capture shoot to create more of a multitude of people. It replicates person upon person upon person, it supports what's happening on the stage and gives a wider sense of energy to really impact that particular scene.'
The plight of refugees from war-torn countries is resonating ever more widely with artists the world over. Hannah Rudd thinks dance can help keep critical humanitarian issues alive in the minds of audiences.
'I feel that art in all senses can choose to be many things. It can choose to be a world far away from the one we live in, which has trauma, has issues, has difficulties; or it can choose to use those issues within its work.
'As dancers and as humans we often feel helpless as to what we can actually do to help things that are going on very far away from us. I don’t think dance can directly help, but I feel that in using the social issues that we face today within our work, we’re saying, “We’re here, we’re experiencing this with you, and this is what we offer within our capability.”'
Aisha and Abhaya is set to add to the growing body of dance work that reflects pressing contemporary issues.
Age Guidance: 11+
|What||Aisha and Abhaya, Rambert, Linbury Theatre|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
21 Jan 20 – 09 Feb 20, 19:45 mats 1, 2, 8 & 9 at 14:45 Dur.: TBC
|Website||Click here to book|