iTMOi. Akram Khan Company

by Laura Luppi

May 29th 1913.

The ballet The Rite of Spring (original French title Le Sacre du printemps) is first performed at the Paris Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, music by the Russian composer o “Igor Stravinsky” Igor Stravinskij and choreography by Vaclav Nižinskij. The audience reacts as facing something scaring just because incomprehensible, something disturbing just because inaccessible, something destabilizing just because emotionally too intense to bear the impact.

A large anomaly takes center stage on hearing and sight of the contemporaries, ready to banish its avant-garde, unaware witnesses to such an epoch-making artistic event. Exactly a hundred years later a new work  is making headway,  intimate and conceptual at least as that of Pina Bausch, conceived and choreographed by British Bangladeshi dancer Akram Khan, the alchemist of an intercultural gesture (with oriental, occidental and African influences) capable of turning  the moving body into an individual spiritual path.

iTMOi stands for In the mind of Igor, which represents the very beginning of his theatrical and choreographic study: the complete work of Stravinsky is the food for his thoughts, and then he deepens into the magical subject of “The Rite” or — better said — ritual of Spring”. The ancestral power of the woman dancing to propitiate the gods in the upcoming season puts us in connection with the secret of the maternal womb, the Earth like a womb full of souls and bodies, fruits and crops, the birth of a progeny sentenced to the inexorable fulfilment of its ultimate fate.

Dancing to live till death, to grant immortality to the generating Earth: this is the sacrificial rite that art imposes on the female guardian of the primordial secret. As Persephone, kidnapped by Hades, she accepts to become slave and then bride to the underworld, to finally take possession of the cycles of life and death. Akram Khan is the demiurge of an innovative narration on Spring’s naturalistic genesis, allegory of the human existence nourished by the fighting forces of Eros and Thanatos, of freedom and imprisonment, of survival and annihilation.

Though the reinterpretation of the subject focuses on the female character, there are eleven male dancers on stage, choreographed by Matt Deely. They let their souls dance through their bodies following the music inspired by the original soundtrack and specifically composed by Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook and Ben Frost. Light also assumes great importance thanks to the lighting designer Fabiana Piccioli, whose performance supplements the complexity of a work that blurs the line between imagination and reality. The unique language of Akram Khan, floating through contemporary and Indian traditional dance (Kathak), reached the peak of its perfection with his previous masterpiece “Desh” and still impregnates this work with his always challenging and new artistic form.

Photo credits - Richard Haughton

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