The concepts that Aakash Odedra tackle in Inked and Murmur are thought provoking areas of study. The first work in his double bill Inked (choreographed by Damien Jalet), explores body art, tattoos and scarification. It is clear how looking at marks of identity and encounters of the body would be interesting from a dancer’s perspective; someone who has a deep understanding and an intimate relationship with their own body. Unfortunately, during this twenty five minute piece there were few moments involved in this explorative process; The audience is left feeling abandoned on the outside of this dance piece desperately looking in.
The piece starts with Odedra’s first appearance through an Odedra-shaped hole cut into the back screen. His background in Kathak dance is evident from the beginning as he rhythmically stamp into view. The lighting design, by Fabiana Piccioli, is both effective and impressive throughout the piece; adding both highlights and structure to the choreography that otherwise fall short of entice.
The solo grows in terms of pace and dynamics-the more areas of Odedra’s body that are revealed with body art drawn upon them, the more agitated and extensive the actions become. The movement material itself however, is repetitive. We see arm ripples over and over, developing only to travel across the stage. This is also the case with circles being drawn on the floor at the end of the choreography, the only change being allowed by their shifting positions. Odedra finishes the piece centre stage having finally ceased drawing. This denouement prove pleasing for the audience as the imagery of circle drawing is by this point, exhausted.
Murmur (choreographed by Odedra and Lewis Major), is a piece looking at the condition of dyslexia from which Odedra himself suffers. Again in this piece, the lighting design, by Andrew Ellis, is hugely impressive and is central to Murmur being such a successful performance. In this instance, however, the choreography is also of interest and appeal.
The set design is relatively simple yet creative, with a circle of electric fans and hanging white material from the ceiling. A lit up version of Odedra is projected onto the white material performing exactly the same movements as Odedra himself behind. Another effect of note is when – what look like letters – tumble out of the book in Odedra’s hand and fly like a flock of birds around the stage, making them impossible to read.
The sense of anguish and frustration that one can feel with dyslexia is effectively conveyed through the piece, particularly when Odedra speaks to the audience, telling his personal story, asking the audience “How long does it take to correct a mistake?” A poignant and personal fact is revealed through dance and stagecraft, when we learn that Odedra discovered at the age of twenty one that he had been spelling his name incorrectly; missing the extra “A”. Suffering is made obvious when pieces of paper drop from the ceiling and Odedra is desperately trying to collect these up, but the task is made futile by the circle of fans around him that swirl the papers into an disorderly frenzy. The dramatic climax is mesmerizing as the swirling paper, ‘flock of birds’, and extra petal-like shapes streaming from the book fall and tumble, swooping and spinning together into a hypnotic whirlwind.
Murmur sweeps the audience in its emotional content communicated through it’s gripping theatricality and stimulating movement material. A commendable piece that leaves you waiting to see more of Odedra’s work. Particularly pieces which would allow a greater scope for movement and technique, the skilled performer that he is with his strong background in South Asian classical and contemporary dance forms.
Reviewd by Sara Daniels
(Sara is a freelance dance teacher and lecturer in dance education)