Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Gnosis - Akram Khan, Sadler's Wells 27th April 2010

Does it really matter if we don't read the programme notes for Akram Khan's new ballet, Gnosis - the story of Queen Gandhari, a character from the Mahabharata?

What's the point in scrutinising explanations how Duryodhana (Khan) is raised from a child to man under the guidance of his blindfolded mother (Yoshie Sunahata), who uses her long white stick to stir her son's growth like a magical spoon? Why should we, when we are so transfixed by the physical hum of their lunges, lace-like hand work and rhythm as their feet pad a counterpoint to drum, cello and tabla? To watch Khan dance is to be bewitched in the moment.

Gnosis too was bewitched by accident and misfortune as Khan explains softly in the evening's first half - a master class in Kathak's improvisation and versatility - north India's spinning, stop-start dance form. Its hand gestures can be mirrored by the head and its dramatic twists and turns slot like tumbrels in a lock to the beats of a drum.

The work was to be premiered in November 2009 but a shoulder injury put pay to that, and further attempts at a premier seemed jinxed. So it was a happy and enthusiastic audience who cheered at last night's show.

But only after the stunned silence at the end. For we had just witnessed the transformation Khan's head, upper body and arms into an emanation of fire.