Sanjukta Sinha & Sanjukta Wagh – Kin and Rage & Beyond: Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London, 30 May 2016

Kin marvellous

Light on her feet. Sanjukta Sinha in Kin

Light on her feet. Sanjukta Sinha in Kin

The title Kin and Rage & Beyond makes more sense when you realise it’s actually two different shows for two different dancers. Both use Kathak as their base but the results are remarkably different.

To help confuse matters further, the first show, Kin, is actually made up of three separate works from three different choreographers. Plenty for Sanjukta Sinha to get her teeth into then. With Sinha initially perched on a piano stool and only having a narrow sliver of light to work in, Miriam Peretz’s illumine was a lovely opener. It was an unhurried meshing of Kathak traditions with a distinctly contemporary feel. The long chains of spins were particularly beautiful to look at, especially the way the skirts of her dress rose up like petals.

Aakash Odedra’s id was a bit of nothing really. Dressed in black, against a black background and with her face hidden behind the veil of her own long, dark hair, it was hard for Sinha to shine. There were a few interesting animalistic flickerings but otherwise the choreography was extremely introverted and hidden in the gloom.

Smt Kumudini Lakhia’s incede on the other hand wore its heart on its sleeve. Under the house lights Sinha strode out in red, checked the microphones were all working, marched to the back of the stage, made sure she had everyone’s attention, clapped her hands and the all the lights went off. Clapped them again and she was in the direct line of three spotlights: this was a woman in charge of what she was doing.

What followed was exceptional. Easily the most traditional part of Kin, Sinha dazzled with the virtuosity of her footwork, the speed of her spins and the elegance of her movement through space. Even more astonishing than all of that, however, was the delicacy of her hand gestures. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such tenderness in the way she caressed her face or such devastating coyness in the way she expressed innocence. Sublime.

Rage & Beyond didn’t stand much of a chance after that and the first half an hour bored me silly. Sanjukta Wagh worked hard, no question; she sang, danced and acted but it felt stilted, the narration pompous and melodramatic. Slowly though, the story of the blindfolded Princess Gandhari and her misguided familial expectations began to exert a certain fascination. It was also incredibly interesting to see how the spoken words were transformed into (rarely literal) physical expression that made absolute sense. It’s not a piece I’d rush to see again but I’m glad I saw it. It was also a pleasure to hear Hitesh Dhutia playing guitar live on stage.

Gerard Davis

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