akram khan company + national ballet of china
artistic director / choreographer ~ akram khan
composer ~ nitin sawhney
chinese music advisor ~ gisele edwards
set conceived by ~ fabiana piccioli, sander loonen and akram khan
dramaturg ~ guy cools
producer ~ farooq chaudrey
associate producer ~ bia oliviera
material devised and performed by ~
eulalia ayguade farro
kim young jin
meng ning ning
bahok is the eagerly anticipated collaboration between Sadler’s
Wells Associate Artist Akram Khan and the National Ballet of China. After
creating intimate duets with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (zero degrees) and Sylvie
Guillem (Sacred Monsters), Akram Khan now works with eight dancers, as five
performers from his own kathak-contemporary company go head-to-head with three classically-trained dancers from the National Ballet of China.
bahok, named after a Bengali word meaning ‘carrier’ explores the ways in which the body carries national identity and a sense of belonging. Khan’s dancers come from diverse cultures, traditions and dance backgrounds – Chinese, Korean, Indian, South-African and Spanish – and this rich mix of both spoken and dance language pushes the boundaries of movement vocabulary. Khan once again joins forces with long-time collaborator Nitin Sawhney, renowned for his multi award-winning compositions, who will create an original score for bahok.
stunning dancing and choreography - ahang ahenxin in particular is extraordinary
Tuesday March 11, 2008
It is almost inevitable that a collaboration between Akram Khan and the National Ballet of China should be about crossing cultures. The eight dancers in Bahok embody a vivid palette of styles and traditions: modern and classical, Asian and western. As a choreographer, Khan's preoccupation has long been with the nature of identity in a migrating world. Just as in his previous work, Zero Degrees, Khan is fascinated here by the adventure of travelling outside one's home culture and the danger of being lost in translation.
Bahok presents a stark atmosphere of limbo; the stage is designed as a waiting room that could be any airport or train station around the world. The dancers sit slumped and restless beneath an information board that flickers through dispiriting variations on the message: Please Wait, Delays.
Desperate to fill time, they experiment with verbal and physical contact. Meng Ningning - one of the three Chinese dancers in the ensemble - introduces herself delicately with a shy enchaînement of ballet steps; the Indian-born Saju strikes bold martial arts poses; and Nitin Sawhney's score adds its own dazzling mix of musical styles.
These migrants are far from home, and their collective mood is anxious. A funny, unsettling dialogue unfolds between Young Jin Kim and unseen immigration officials, whose conversational cross-purposes threaten to escalate into an ugly situation. More poignantly, Eulalia Ayguade Farro is a woman who has travelled so far that she has forgotten her name and place of origin. When she borrows a mobile phone to ring her mother, she cannot make a connection.
As Kahn allows these travellers' tales to unfold, he takes full advantage of the compelling individuality of his cast. Wang Yitong is outstanding as her classical training opens up to the slamming, corkscrew dynamic of Khan's vocabulary. Occasionally, the logic of the piece starts to feel predictable as it jogs from one individual story to the next. However, the final section recovers its thrilling pace and intensity as Khan unites his dancers in a furious, wheeling ensemble, pounding the stage as they restart their collective journey.
The announcement board flashes up the messages, "HOME ... HOPE ... HOME", but we have no sense that these characters, driven by the piston-pumping rhythms of Sawhney's score, will ever arrive at a destination. Through this ultimately powerful piece, Khan captures both the exhilaration and the desolation of a world on the move.