Culture Whisper says: ★★★★★
Akram Khan | Israel Galvàn
Comparing Flamenco and Kathak after the opening show at Sadler's Wells, Akram Khan said, 'One brings a knife to the game, the other one brings prayer beads.' He and Israel Galvàn have achieved something startling in reconciling these two forces. Describing Galvàn is like trying to put Mick Jagger on paper - his every move drips charisma, and his louche lunacy is a joy to watch. It’s the perfect foil to Akram Khan’s compact intensity. The relationship between the two is endearing to the point of drawing ‘ahh’s and affectionate chuckles from the audience, and the two spar their Flamenco and Kathak moves with captivating energy.
The whole evening is idiosyncratic - necessarily, as personalities the size of Khan's and Galvàn's don't leave much space on stage. Galvàn is a fiercely rhythmic dancer, known as much for his wild innovation as his exquisite technical precision, and a leader in the flamenco genre for the last 20 years. Khan’s background in Kathak has led him in all sorts of experimental directions on the British contemporary dance scene. Both are innovators in movement and rhythm, bringing contemporary flair to tightly bound traditions.
Kathak meets Flamenco
While neither discards the tools of his trade (Khan’s feet remain belled and Galvàn’s heeled in the traditional flamenco boots), they are keen to stress this is not homogenised ‘world dance’. Galvàn has worked tirelessly to counter the dumbing of flamenco to please mass audiences; and Khan has through other collaborations tried to bring Kathak to a wider audience by exploring its links with other dance forms.
The result will intrigue aficionados of both. Khan is often praised for making complex performance more accessible; but Galvàn, perhaps because the flamenco stereotype is so familiar, can be a much less approachable artist. The Guardian called Galvàn’s La Curva, “a prodigal, practice-based tantrum”. There was rolling on the floor, some flour-throwing, a few Michael Jackson-style hip thrusts and an entire section danced with a jacket over his head.
The very name of the piece is a hint of its esoteric nature. It’s taken from a Dadaist phonetic poem by Tristan Tzara, and refers to the bull (toro) and cow (vaca), sacred animals in the dancers’ respective traditions. This link is only one of many - the forms share some movement vocabulary, such as stamping on the ground, swinging strong circular arms and articulate shapes of the wrist and hands.
Music and movement: Torobaka 2015
That the musicians are as compelling as Khan and Galvàn, both utterly magnetic performers, is a tribute to their talent - this is a concert of seven artists, individually brilliant, together something worth shouting about. Habitual Galvàn collaborator Bobote 'keeps palm,' interrupting his rhythms that hold everyone together only for a little flamenco performance of his own. Khan refers to David Azurza, a counter-tenor who now composes almost exclusively for the human voice,as 'a Jesus-like figure.' It's not hard to see why - little and bearded, his pure, high tones add a spiritual layer to the rhythm. As for avant-garde singer Christine Leboutte, it's a wonder the whole show isn't sucked into her huge, low, cavern-filling voice.
But both dancers are also music creators, and the body as a source of rhythm is a key element of this collaboration. Expect some poignant moments of comparison, as the two execute the same movement, but cannot rid their limbs of the Kathak/flamenco difference trained into every muscle.
This is, therefore, a must see for those who wants to witness new movement in the making.
Click here for more of the Sadler's Wells Autumn 2015 programme.
|What||Akram Khan | Israel Galvàn: TOROBAKA, Sadler's Wells|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
30 Jun 15 – 05 Jul 15, 4pm on Sunday 5th July
|Website||Click here to book via the Sadler's Wells website|