Odedra’s dance odyssey

He has a feather-weight body. Lithe, elastic like a rubber. His nimble-footed leaps, knee-spins, pirouettes on toe-tips, agile hand movements and muscle contraction and expansion conjure up a stupefying spectacle. 20-something contemporary dancer Aakash Odedra is a phenomenal talent of extraordinary skill and calibre, when it comes to setting the stage literally afire! His gravity-defying stunts, space-conquering acts and 3-D effects in his riveting showcases take his presentation to a different level altogether. As a result, the audience is rendered speechless. “Watching him and his luminous portrayals from the spectators’ gallery is a mind-boggling, eye-dazzling experience! He as if paints a shapeless, massless, invisible canvas with the help of his limb-brushes,” exclaimed a gaping viewer on a recent evening at Kolkata’s G.D. Birla Sabhaghar, marvelling at the sensational sight of a brilliant performer from the UK.
In town to present his universal piece Rising with the support of British Council in association with the prestigious Ananda Shankar Centre for Performing Arts, Odedra displayed something that the city’s culture vultures are seldom exposed to. Odedra’s adept alacrity, dancing prowess, the immense control over his body and balance plus a flawless showmanship come alive through a prism of intense technical jugglery.
The interplay of lights and sounds in perfect harmony with the props and music make his exposition what it is.
“Although I happen to celebrate the British culture in my choreographic pieces, yet the very essence of Indianness and its cultural ethos is deeply rooted in my performances,” frankly confides Aakash.
Widely known as an accomplished Kathak exponent, this weightless wonder is also trained in a varied range of dance styles including Bharatnatyam, Indo-Jazz and contemporary. Besides, he has cut capers with acclaimed dancers like Chitraleka Bolar and Nilima Devi in the UK and Asha Joglekar and Chhaya Kanvateh from India. Incidentally, Aakash has spent the whole of last year (2011) collaborating with the three most outstanding choreographers of post-modern era namely, Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Russell Maliphant. All three acclaimed names have actually created a solo production on Aakash’s body, judging both its forte and limits, which in itself is an opportunity for a bevy of dance-lovers to observe and appreciate with a careful gaze.
In fact, the choreographic processes of these three very distinct and gifted choreographers can be a handy textbook for any new-age avid learner. The project is famously known as Rising and is currently on tour in 2012.
Drawn from different forms, textures, styles and allegories, Rising is a compact dance-programme encapsulating four diverse pieces, divided into four different flavours and fragrances.
The opening item kicked off with an engrossing Sufi Kathak that saw the performer in minimal make-up and simple attire on stage. Scoring more on the powerful beats, rhythm, metres, speed and nimble footwork of the classical genre, Aakash rendered a beautifully self-choreographed piece titled, Mohe Apne Hi Rang Mein. With vocals lent by Sami-Allah Khan based upon the poem Oh Lord, Colour Me In Your Colours by Amir Khusro, Aakash also doubled up as a music arranger for this particular show. To the uninitiated, Sufi Kathak is a unique form of Kathak that fuses classical vocabulary with the mysticism of Sufi spirituality. Sufi, popularly referred to as the “Dance of Ecstasy”, is a type of expression which combines 600 years of old Islamic poetic compositions with classical Indian dance.
Next followed In The Shadow Of Man, which is choreographed by world-renowned English dancer of Bangladeshi descent, Akram Khan. A glance at his profile would disclose the fact that this expert’s background is strongly implanted in his classical Kathak training and contemporary dance.
Credits for the lighting of this piece goes to Michael Hulls and the music is composed by Jocelyn Pook. While the rehearsal directors are Jose Agudo and Lewis Major.
“The direction for this solo choreography is not so much about making a piece, as it is about exploring my continuous fascination with the ‘animal’ we have within ourselves,” Khan had once commented.
The vital question that keeps gnawing in at his brains is that “is the human body evolving from generation to generation becoming more humane or being transformed into beasts with claws of the internal animosity and carnal desires getting the better of it?” Probably, very few of us have answers to this puzzle.
The third consecutive item is called Cut, which is conceptualised by Russell Maliphant. While the lighting design is crafted by Michael Hulls, the musical interludes are set in to tunes by Andy Cowton. The trio have had also vibed in a series of cultural collaborations in the past.
Finally, the choreographic collage cruised to an end with Constellation, designed and ideated by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
Dubbed as the rising new sensation on South Asian dancescape, Rising offers a visceral experience and moment to the culturatti of India. It comes as a part of the Impulse project, which is an initiative taken up by the British Council in its bid to supporting artists world-wide and forging new cultural relationships with the UK practitioners. In other words, it aims to foster ties between Britain and the rich, Indian cultural heritage. Hope, the journey so far leaves a lingering effect on the memory of all captivated watchers.

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