Aakash Odedra performs two temperamentally different dance pieces ‘Echoes’ and ‘I Imagine’ at the Lilian Baylis Studio. ‘Echoes’ is Kathak based and examines dancer’s relationship to his craft. ‘I Imagine’ is a contemporary piece with a socially relevant theme for today’s tumultuous world. Odedra is a raging fireball through the two solo pieces of 70 minutes.
The first piece ‘Echoes’ choreographed by famous Indian choreographer Aditi Mangal Das has an innovative take on the Ghungroo (Kathak bells). The bells that would traditionally go on the ankles of a kathak dancer are a metaphor for the dancer’s attachment to his art. It creates a resonance in the mind through a more visual and emotional experience. The distant tinkling of the bells grow louder as Odedra gradually becomes visible on stage with brightening light. He gently swings a bunch of long strings of bells across the floor side to side below waist level. He is not wearing them but moving with them, placing them, creating patterns on the floor with them. He is gathering them, holding on to them, dispersing the array and gathering them again. This is beautifully choreographed with intermittent kathak boles and movements and spins. When he moves with the bells they create a poignant hollow soundscape. Moving on through the piece you gather images from the dancer’s life where the bells are his lifeline. When he is dancing, there is a meditating quiet. The impassioned physical movement set against the echoing resonance of the bells in the mind create a transcendental moment. There is also a thick bunch of stringed bells loosely suspended at the far back end of the stage. The choreography takes Odedra to this corner to interact with the hanging strands. A stroke or a twirl with his beloved bells. He weaves a trajectory of choreographed movements through them in an intense and intimate moment. Here the bond between the bells and the dancer is projected in heaving waves, while the rest of the world is a blur.
A masked appearance of three generations by Odedra in his second piece “I Imagine” is a dark portrayal of migration. Some hopes are fulfilled, whereas others are crushed. There is disruption and relocation, but the question remains- is there emotional contentment. Immigrants are in an existential dilemma where they yearn for what they have left behind while trying to adapt to their new reality. In “I Imagine”, Odedra tackles this dilemma of immigrants through a captivating performance. Spoken words by award-winning British-Egyptian poet Sabrina Mahfouz provides a strong narrative framework. A part of the audience would have identified with the pulse of the storyline from personal experience whereas others would empathise. Odedra a virtuoso kathak dancer proves himself equally talented in contemporary dance theatre. Though he is not a trained contemporary dancer, he is equally at ease with this form.
One of the most successful artists of his generation, Odedra raises the bar for audience expectation for his future performances.