Dallas — Repetition can dull the senses but it can also mesmerize, and such was the case of the latter Saturday night at Dallas City Performance Hall where TITAS brought the Britain-based Akram Khan Company. The single work on the program was the 55-minute long Kaash, which could just as well been called Theme and Variations with its dynamic mixture of complex hand and arm gestures, repetition of spatial patterns and thunderous foot work—repeated again and again, and then were elaborated on or picked up by other dancers. Kaash blended modern dance with classical Indian Kathak, bridging two cultures not only in style but also in purpose.
In a very abstract way Kaash plays with the cyclical theories of creation and destruction portrayed by the Hindu god Shiva—as well as theories of the black hole and multiverses. How these come together are hinted at by the title, for Kaash in Hindu means “if.”
The opening image set the mood. A tall, bare-chested man (Shiva?) in long flowing skirt confronts the void in utter silence, his back toward us. Behind him is a backlit backdrop with a black, rectangular shape, signifying perhaps nothingness.
In the meantime Sung Hoon Kim stands motionless for what seems a very long time. Suddenly, figures emerge in shadow, moving to loud, percussive, “taka-taka” rhythms. They move along a diagonal line, swing their arms vigorously and lunge forward.
Tantalizing pauses give way to explosive leaps, and in one dramatic section Shiva spins like a funnel tornado. In another section a man walks toward a woman as though to examine her and she scoots away. A voice whispers undecipherable words as though the universe is a mystery. A woman rolls back and forth, leaps up, and rolls some more.
In gradual sequences, the lighting changes from a gold wash to semi-darkness, just as the edges of the backdrop change color from gray, to blue to dark red.
The sound changes ever more dramatically, from quiet to the volume of a jet on takeoff, to silence again.
It is hard to say which were more compelling, solos or ensemble pieces, as when a woman moves as a whirlwind with arms waving and fingers gripping the air; or as all five dancers move on a grid pattern, surging forward and with whiplash suddenness make abrupt turns. Or how often dancers split apart, reverse direction and pick up the same propulsive, forward thrust.
Kaash’s cohesive richness stems in part from the collaboration of choreographer Khan, set designer Anish Kapoor and composer Nitin Sawhney. Kaash is one tiny universe of its own.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.