BWW Review: Aakash Odedra is a Rising Talent
The debut of the Aakash Odedra Company's RISING at the NYU Skirball Center featured four works by four choreographers, all performed solo by Odedra. All four pieces proved Odedra to be an incredibly talented dancer who can easily shift and merge styles, though the similarity in tone for much of the night may have shortchanged our access to the full range of Odedra's abilities.
NRITTA, choreographed by Odedra himself, was deeply rooted in the traditional Kathak and Bharatnatyam. Though the piece was considerably less abstract and experimental than the other three on the surface, it was probably the strongest piece in the show. Precise and vigorous, a joyous love of the dance shined through here and was inspiring to watch.
IN THE SHADOW OF MAN, choreographed by Akram Khan, explored the "animalistic" side of human nature. While it was fun to see the limber Odedra twist himself into various animal shapes while hopping or shuffling on all four limbs, I could've done without the literalism, particularly the animal sounds vocalized by Odedra himself.
More compelling was the underlying tension implied by the choreographer, a tension over the expression (or perhaps repression) of carnal urges. The dark and mysterious vibe that overtook this piece was interesting but a bit one-dimensional. Under the rusty red glow of the stage lights, the color of the lower chakras, I found myself asking what exactly makes any human thought, feeling or action more or less human? Is so-called "animal nature" necessarily a bad thing?
CUT, with choreography by Russell Maliphant and lighting by Michael Hulls, was an exciting use of light, speed and shadow. It was interesting to see Odedra's traditional Indian dance training come through again, this time to facilitate a flurry of limbs or the sudden vanishing of part (or all) of the dancer. The focus on the interplay of light, highlight, movement and darkness transported us into a vaguely eerie, otherworldly dimension with no specific purpose but to dazzle.
The final piece CONSTELLATION, choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, had a dreamy quality. Lit by a series of hanging bulbs, the white-robed Odedra navigated the scene through a mild layer of dust (stage fog.) It was pretty in a way reminiscent of the work of Neil Gaiman and Maurice Sendak, but that's probably where the comparison should end. The soundtrack was a bit melodramatic with a voice whispering "Just give me light." Lights were turned off and on or grew brighter or dimmer at Odedra's graceful command but, ultimately, the piece didn't pull me in one way or the other.
More than anything, RISING left me with a desire to see more of Odedra's own work. The other choreographers succeeded in pushing Odedra out of the bounds of his classical Indian dance training. I'm interested to see how he will use these newly imbued abilities to bring his own unique vision to life.
Photo by Ian Douglas