South Asia on the South Bank

A free spectacle of urban Indian music and movement will sprawl across the concrete at the South Bank this weekend
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The Independent Culture

As spectacles go, Escapade is more Bollywood punk than Bombay Dreams. "We didn't want people to come and watch what Indian dancers always do," says film-maker Mark Murphy about Escapade, an outdoor performance inspired by popular South Asian culture.

Over two nights in August, the area outside the Royal Festival Hall will be transformed into a zany promenade of Indian dance, club culture, film and visuals, with 150 dancers performing on grass, gravel, staircases and the bridge stage.

Classical Indian dancers will be dressed as skate-punks. Mavin Khoo, a classically trained ballerina, will perform Indian dance on points. Pensioners from the Sadler's Wells over-sixties dance troupe will appear on top of a London tourist bus wearing camouflage saris, while the South Bank's modernist architecture will host a huge cinema screen.

"It is exciting," says Murphy, a former V-TOL dance company director who has made the film that will be projected across the back wall of the Royal Festival Hall. The film, which will be shown during the second half of the performance, will give clues to the unfolding activity: for example, there are two characters identically dressed in red and white who perform duets in the midst of the chaotic action. Could they be in love?

Escapade is directed by Keith Khan and the nine choreographers involved in the show took Murphy's film as their starting point. Loosely based on the anticipation before a kiss, it is full of motion with lots of running and high-speed camera work. "Each time the couple try to kiss, an obstacle gets in the way. They just can't seem to get it together. It creates a yearning, because everybody knows what that kiss is like, when it finally happens."

The film projected on to three screens, showing interconnected stories. On one, an Asian family sits around, channel-hopping, watching the couple try to kiss. "They are unwittingly in charge of the whole show. As they zap channels, something happens, or if they rewind a piece of film, some of the live performances stop and go back." The third screen shows live performances as they happen, because one member of the family keeps switching to the dance channel.

"The couple do eventually get round to the big snogathon, and there is finally utter relief and resolution to the piece," says Murphy. Then comes the finale, which is an eruption of mad singing and dancing, with music composed by the big Bollywood composer, Sandeep Chowta, and DJs from Hexstatic, who have remixed some additional tracks.

Finally, for those who need to enhance their dancing skills free Bollywood-style dance workshops available throughout Saturday in the RFH Ballroom.

'Escapade' - an outdoor performance on the South Bank (020-7960 4203). Royal Festival Hall, ground level, Hayward Gallery; Friday 1 and Saturday 2 August, 9pm