Rising – Aakash Odedra: Robin Howard Dance Theatre, The Place, London; 25 February 2012

Ah, look, the sun is up

I can see my house from here! Aakash Odedra puts his back into it for Rising.

Astonishing young British South Asian dancer Aakash Odedra is something to behold. Given the inestimable honour of having three new solos created for him by some of the top contemporary choreographers working in the UK (Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui) he opens his first solo show, Rising, with a work of his own.

Nritta demonstrates Odedra’s background in Kathak, a form of Indian classical dance, to mesmerising effect. He has exquisite use of the hands and incredibly fast feet; there’s one amazing sequence where his feet are pneumatically flapping up and down so quickly that he appears to be hovering several inches off the floor. His whirling turns, a feature of the whole night, are dramatically served with a minimum of fuss and his musicality is a delight.

Whereas Odedra’s hands in Nritta are a joyful form of expression, in Akram Khan’s In The Shadow Of Men, they seem to intentionally inhibit him; his whole arm appears to be coming loose at the sockets in its attempt to break away from his body. With a series of weirdly spooky squawks he painfully transforms into a stick-like insect and then a chimp before cowering back into his foetal opening position. It’s utterly compelling.

Thanks largely to Michael Hulls’ slice ‘n’ dice lighting Russell Maliphant’s Cut is a breathtaking piece. A pulsing sci-fi corridor of light creates a prison for Odedra to move seamlessly around in; a sequence that ends in the narrowest of spotlights in which he holds a back-bend for an eternity. Again, the hands play a leading part in creating ethereally thin shadows and there’s a beautiful sequence of turns that slice right through the beams of light from one side of the stage to the other.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s visually stunning Constellation concludes Rising in dream-like fashion. Numerous lightbulbs are strung about the stage for Odedra to wander contemplatively amongst accompanied by a whooshing great soundtrack from Olga Wojciechowska. Eventually he settles on one bulb which he sits meditatively behind while all the others start to flash like a million ideas exploding in his head; an invigorating image on which to end.

Not only was Rising a marvellously conceived and supremely well-executed show but what impressed most was Odedra’s ability to adopt each piece’s different mood and present a total understanding of just what it was he was performing. A physically slight man with a smooth, fluid style, he has a gentle, self-effacing charisma that filled the Robin Howard Theatre and gave the distinct impression that we were witnessing someone quite extraordinary.

Gerard Davis

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