Aakash Odedra teams up with choreographer Aditi Mangaldas to perform a new solo, Echoes. This eloquent piece is steeped in the Kathak tradition – a form of classical Indian dance. Odedra is heralded as one the leading lights of his generation. He is an extraordinary dancer, balancing flawless technique with silky lyricism and an infectious vigour. Mangaldas has blazed her own trail as a Kathak performer, and and she is now a renowned choreographer. She takes a bold step to create her first solo piece on a dancer outside of her company.

Aakash Odedra in <i>Echoes</i> © Nirvair Singh
Aakash Odedra in Echoes
© Nirvair Singh

Her courage pays off; Echoes is an absorbing work. Odedra shimmers with intensity from the get-go, his presence fills the space. He moves with commitment and sincerity, releasing his energy like a slow outbreath. Long tendrils of Ghungroos (foot bells) hang down from the rigging resembling voluptuous locks of hair. They snake across the floor and occasionally crash to ground in glittering puddles. Odedra returns to these hanging bells
throughout the piece. He’s drawn to them, reveres them even. They symbolise an
awakening. The lighting design imitates the patterns of the ghungroos trickling across the
stage.Odedra swirls the strings of bells around his head and body in a radical departure from their traditional use.

Mangaldas layers the choreography with moments of stillness and sequences of fervid movement. Odedra showers the floor with rapid foot movements creating the sound of cascading raindrops. His upper body and arms etch fluid arcs, he spins with dizzying speed and the long tails of his tunic ripple out catching the rising current of air. Echoes touches the sacred; imbued with Odedra’s own spirituality, Mangaldas fashions a piece that evokes a rich serenity that seems to settle on the audience.

Aakash Odedra in <i>Echoes</i> © Tim Theo Deceuninck
Aakash Odedra in Echoes
© Tim Theo Deceuninck

I Imagine, choreographed by Odedra, follows. It is a rough diamond. It examines attitudes to migration through the eyes of first, second and third generation migrants – a grandfather’s memories infused with nostalgia, a working man threatened by a new wave of refugees and job seekers, and a young woman caught up in the soap opera of Western youth culture. Each character is played convincingly by Odedra with masks designed by David Poznanter. Odedra bends his elastic body to probe his characters’ sensibilities. A story starts in his finger tips and transverses through his limbs, a gift from his Kathak training that serves Odedra well when he shifts into contemporary dance forms. Three piles of luggage dominate the space. Odedra emerges from a huge suitcase; first a foot, a leg, and then an arm. It is a powerful image – we pack our dreams and aspirations into bags. They hold hope, but also carry sadness.

I Imagine is a patchwork of arresting images and characters, but as a piece of dance theatre it is lumpy and lacks a coherent form. Certainly, there are poignant moments, revealing emotional depth, a citrus wit and creative clarity. But as a whole, it suffers from a meandering pace and an overdose of introspection. It would be fascinating to see this developed as an ensemble piece, but as a solo it fails to impress.

***11