bahok, Sadler's Wells, London
Monday 16 June 2008
Dancers wait in an airport lounge. Overhead, a display board flips through strings of random letters, ending in unwelcome messages: delay, please wait.
The dancers fidget or talk, encountering strangers and immigration officials. Sometimes they break into dance steps. More often, they keep talking.
bahok is a collaboration between the choreographer Akram Khan and the National Ballet of China – that company's first new work with a Western contemporary choreographer. It makes for a multi-cultural ensemble. Three from China join five from Khan's company, whose nationalities include Korean, South African, Indian, Slovakian.
Khan has long been interested in questions of identity, which are built into this piece. The title comes from a Bengali word meaning "carrier": the dancers carry memories, as well as dance training, in their bodies.
Eulalia Ayguade Farro is a desperate woman, clutching crumpled pieces of paper, accosting other dancers – apparently seeking help, actually wanting them to listen to her stories. All she remembers about home is the way it rained.
Shanell Winlock tries to interpret for Kim Young Jin, who speaks little English and finds it hard to get a word in edgeways. When at last he does speak, the departure board provides a translation – but is anybody on stage paying attention?
bahok is a very talky piece – and self-conscious. When Farro rushes through her long, frantic speeches, you can see that the others don't have time for her character, embarrassed by her demands and her emotions. You can't miss the point, but it lacks spontaneity. Neither her plight, nor the listeners' responses, really bite.
It's better once they start to move. When Saju partners the National Ballet of China's Meng Ningning, their styles clash and mesh. He moves in to lift her, but ducks away, with martial arts defensiveness, from her high-kicking legs.
Nitin Sawhney's atmospheric music slips between styles, Indian melodies rubbing up against Chinese percussion or thumping beats. Fabiana Piccioli's beautiful lighting warms or chills the different incidents.
Towards the end, the cast come together for an ensemble number. As arms whirl and pump, they suggest an aeroplane: engines turning, or arms outstretched like wings in a child's game. It's in the movement that bahok comes closest to takeoff.
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
Eurovision 2015: Graham Norton returns with another cutting commentary - his best lines
Eurovision 2015: The best moments from Australia's random entry to Lithuania's gay kiss
Clarkson, Hammond and May Live: Top Gear trio returns with a blend of fireworks, AC/DC and 'automotive pornography'
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Eurovision 2015: Estonia seemingly enters Louis Tomlinson from One Direction
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland