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Akram Khan Company – Portraits in Otherness | Review

Ching-Ying Chien Vulture © Julien Martinez Leclerc
Ching-Ying Chien Vulture © Julien Martinez Leclerc

Portraits in Otherness is a platform for solo works by four emerging artists curated by Akram Khan and his company producer, Farooq Chaudhry.

This show was the two-night turn in the Lilian Baylis Studio of two dancers and choreographers, Ching-Ying Chien with Vulture and Joy Alperton Ritter performing Babae.

The inspiration for Vulture came from a myth about the way vultures meet coming death by flying higher than ever and melting to nothing in the sun. Vulture explores the life cycle not through human eyes but that of an animal. Ching-Ying Chien is a dancer in perfect control of her body. Control was the force of the piece, at times the tiny movements became agonising to watch. There was too much of that, not enough tonality. A very effective section lifted the work towards the end when the wall of music created by composer and musician, Joseph Ashton, combined with the dance and the lovely lighting by Fabian Piccioli, combined to create wonder. It was effective in having him on the stage playing the guitar. Live music changes the vibrations in a room.

The second piece by Joy Alpuerto Ritter was inspired by Mary Wigman’s Witch Dance, that ‘masterpiece of strangeness’, wanting to take a look from another angle at the power and mystical practices of a woman as a witch. This is difficult in the West for Arthur Miller has successfully communicated Shakespeare’s ( male acted ) witches as a patriarchal construct. Here we prefer the concept of the female as a universal goddess but this piece was wanting to describe a different, more domestic, form of spirituality. Miss Ritter created her choreography from Philippine Folk Dances as well as other forms of modern dance.

Again the piece started with controlled micro movements, the character is a woman carrying a burden of pots on her head. As women may carry food. She puts them down then moves from small repeated mechanicals to energetic hair tossing, flying pink glitter which it tums out is what Miss Ritter keeps in those pots of hers. This was a pleasing effect but perhaps too much like earthly fun to transport everyone to the mystical other. Again there was not enough lyrical movement nor direction in the work to satisfy. The music composed by Akram Khan’s musical collaborator, Vincenzo Lamagna, pulled the work along but even this was not enough to satisfy.

This was perhaps an imbalance in the evening’s programme which combined two works using, too often, a similar scale of movement.

The combination of these two pieces, however, worked to create a mounting sense of frustration with stillness and micro-movement which eventually lost all power to intrigue or move. The need left then but not fulfilled was for the power and rhythm of communicating movement not a glitter frenzy.

3 Star Review

Review by Marian Kennedy

Portraits in Otherness is a new platform initiated by Akram Khan and his producer Farooq Chaudhry, seeking to transfer the intangible values and philosophy of Akram Khan Company to a new generation of talents.

They invite four highly charismatic and distinctive dance artists to present their solo work: Joy Alpuerto Ritter, Ching-Ying Chien, Dickson Mbi and Maya Jilan Dong, each embodying the echoes and primitive beauty of many dance languages both learned and inherited.

Akram Khan Company — Portraits in Otherness
5 – 8 Jun 2018
Lilian Baylis Studio
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R

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