Akram Khan Company | Dance Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Akram Khan Company 

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The word that comes to mind for Akram Khan's evening-length Kaash ("If" in Hindi) is elegant. The costumes are sleeveless black split-skirt jumpers over loose black pants, for men and women alike. Sculptor Anish Kapoor's set--a glowing rectangular frame of red light at the rear of the stage--has an evocative simplicity, suggesting without depicting an otherworldly realm. Nitin Sawney's score layers silence, the voice, and percussion in ways that recall but don't reproduce traditional Indian music. Khan is a British native of Indian heritage trained in kathak, but frankly I didn't see much of that classical Indian form in the choreography, except perhaps in its exceptional groundedness. What's most apparent, especially in the opening section, is the way motion pivots around stillness. A single dancer stands with his back to us while four others take big, swinging steps out of the line they form; their movements, though not oriented toward the single figure, inexorably bring the dancers closer to him, each in his or her way. Exceeding quickness alternates with stillness in later sections--and Khan has said in an interview that "finding clarity in chaos is a principle of kathak, which follows extreme speed with an effort to achieve sudden stillness." Though I was able to see only excerpts from the dance on tape, they created a strong impression of gentleness, calm, and strength. Khan formed his troupe recently, in 2000, and is himself only 29, but the eerily right Kaash is not the work of a novice. Museum of Contemporary Art, theater, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010. Through October 26: Friday-Saturday, 7:30 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $22. Note: There will be a free postperformance discussion with the artists Friday; a postperformance dinner with them Saturday is $28 ($18 for artists and students) in addition to a Kaash ticket.

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