Review: Aakash Odedra - Mumur/Inked - Linbury Studio Theatre

Performance: 23 - 24 January 2015
Reviewed by Matthew Paluch - Wednesday 28 January 2015

Aakash Odedra - Murmur/Inked
Photo: Bettina Strenske

Performance reviewed: 23 January

Being ‘One to Watch’ in the arts can be a burden posing two pressured questions persistently: do you deserve it? Are you fulfilling it? As Aakash Odedra took to the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre there was definitely an air of expectant anticipation…but did he answer the two questions with positivity and ease? Question 1: yes. Question 2: ish.

The first work, Inked is a creation for Odedra by the renowned European choreographer Damien Jalet. Odedra enters the stage as a lone, lithe figure beating his path with a complex stamping rhythm. Immediately confirming an authoritative presence, and percussive use of the body. This initial open, somewhat forceful demeanour changes as the work develops, into a reflective, solitary one.

Jalet takes the notion of markings (the tattoo) as his core idea – and what they mean to different societies. To the Asian community they suggest protection and a form of visual recognition – and Odedra communicates protection in an original manner. For the majority of the work he seems to find expression through (physical) restriction. A large amount of the movement is executed with fingers interlocked, causing his arms to have an adept molten-like quality. And the clasped, circular shape is further used as a form of threshold, which his legs pierce through.

He also uses an abundance of knee spins heralding from traditional South Asian dance techniques, which, with the lack of liberated arms, take on an interesting guise – one of meditative limbo – but when you spin that well why rush? This circular focus continues into the work’s last section – where black crayons are used to mark the floor in relentless curved motions. As an observer it reads like a panicked mammal creating a habitat with keen urgency. And when coupled with Loscil’s perpetual in style electronic score, a whirling environment is created that takes a while to subside post applause.

The second work is Murmur, created by Odedra and Lewis Major. The piece focuses on Odedra’s dyslexia – and what impact it had on his mental state and relationship to dance. The pair work with the Austrian collective Ars Electronica Futurelab who created projections as an additional form of the storytelling. Autobiographical works tend to increase a feeling of empathy towards the performer – but not this time for me. I found the narrative a little weak and the use of projections somewhat off putting. Where is one meant to focus when you have projected image, billowing silks and Odedra dancing all at once? Perhaps a brilliant communication of the turmoil of dyslexia – or perhaps just a greedy sensory moment.

A further addition was spoken word, taking the work into the realm of dance theatre – but Odedra didn’t communicate with a clear enough voice to make any real contribution. This is sounding worse than it was because when he dances of course one is reminded that he is an extraordinarily gifted mover. He embodies a balance of ebb and flow rarely seen – where moments of physical contemplation are slammed with an impact so forceful it could wake anything from deepest hibernation.

Overall my review is a positive one, but this programme raises questions (and the odd alarm) about how Odedra will carve a path. For me, he is most successful in the role of dancer. Perhaps his own work needs a little more room for experimentation and/or decisive editing before being shown so widely. Opinion can be quick and unforgiving – and though risk must be entertained in order to develop an artist, ideally it shouldn’t act as a deterrent.

Aakash Odedra is touring to Nottingham, Derby, Manchester, Newcastle and Ipswich

Photos: Bettina Strenske

Matthew Paluch is an ex professional dancer and teacher. He’s written for Dance Europe, Dancing Times and Find him on Twitter @matthewpauch

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