Jo Tomalin

Reviews

Cal Performances Akram Khan Company Xenos 4 Jean Louis Fernandez E1552860908112

Akram Khan’s Xenos – Breathtaking!

above: Pictured: Akram Khan performs XENOS, Saturday–Sunday, March 2–3, 2019 in Zellerbach Hall. (credit: Jean-Louis Fernandez)

Pictured: Akram Khan performs XENOS, Saturday–Sunday, March 2–3, 2019 in Zellerbach Hall.
(credit: Nicol Vizioli)

Akram Khan, renowned international dancer and choreographer performed Xenos, his final full-length work as a solo performer at Zellerbach Hall, presented by Cal Performances March 2-3, 2019.

Xenos is directed, choreographed and performed by Khan and encompasses several themes. Inventive choreography and stunning visual storytelling tell a visceral story about an Indian soldier caught between his own culture, colonialism and how he deals with the politics of war – with reference to World War I and the vast amount of Indians who fought and died as they supported European and American Armies – expressed through dance and symbolism. The text for Xenos is written by acclaimed Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill and within the choreography and storytelling Khan’s impetus is to explore themes of alienation, loss, death, time and memory – and what it is to be human and a creative being. Thus bridging the chasm between pain and the reality of life while creating beauty that informs and moves people.

In this West Coast premiere Khan performs onstage accompanied by several musicians who play an extensive eclectic and traditional musical set before and at the beginning of the show and they also appear mystically throughout the performance, to great effect. The sixty five minute performance, without intermission fuses elements of traditional Indian kathak music and movement with abstract soundscape and contemporary physical performance in a seamless way that is beguiling. We are swept along on an odyssey that we think is predictable, yet refreshingly and imaginatively continues to awe and surprise to the very end.

In this highly technical and complex physical piece Khan moves with outstanding fluidity, fast changes of direction and ethereal dynamics using all areas and levels of the space and its expansive dramatic set. Not only does the set offer beauty and intricate whimsy but it also flirts with danger with its dramatic changing levels. In fact, the vast stage of Zellerbach Hall is transformed and with Khan as the sole performer it is a testament to the creative team and Khan’s choreography and performance that it all works together so well – Dramaturg: Ruth Little; Lighting designer: Michael Hills; Original music score and sound design: Vincenzo Lamagna; Costume designer: Kimie Nakano. Musicians: Nina Harries, BC Manjunath, Tamar Osborn, Aditya Prakash.

The multi dimensional piece includes words, dance, theatre, music, movement, humor, wit, drama, pathos, abstract creativity, effects and more. Khan not only moves energetically but also evokes emotive moments atop a hill when he sees people in the desert, creates an ominous mask from thick rope, or meets a singular type of gramophone!

Xenos is vibrant and soulful, beautifully performed by Khan with detailefibrous movement down to the tips of the fingers. His athletic physicality defies gravity at times as he takes us willingly on his journey through allegory into this imaginative space. Highly recommended!

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Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
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