Review: Akram Khan – Gnosis, Sadler’s Wells

I’m not the world’s greatest fan of dance it must be said, but I have been known dabble here and there and I actually saw Akram Khan a couple of years ago in in-i, his collaboration with Juliette Binoche, so when I was asked if I fancied Gnosis, a new work by Khan, at Sadler’s Wells, I thought I would give it a go. One of the greatest exponents of kathak dancing currently working, Gnosis is a fusion of this ancient style with more modern movement as well and it was originally meant to be premiered last year but a shoulder injury prevented it from being presented in its entirety. It is now in its fully fledged version and played for two nights here in London.

Khan dances on a mostly bare stage, with his musicians ranged on either side of him and with the highly effective stark lighting, the focus is clearly on the purity of the dance. With feverish twists and turns, stamps and intricate arms movements, Khan duels with the music to initially great effect. But I have to admit to finding it a little dull after a short while as there was no story being told and the solo dance became a little wearing, seemingly repeating move after move (I realise he probably wasn’t but that is what it looked like to this novice).

When the dancing stopped and the soft-voiced Khan brought a microphone onto the stage, I did wonder what was coming next and we were then treated to a bit of a rambling monologue which culminated in him introducing the musicians accompanying him. Whilst they truly were superb and deserve credit, this did drag and completely broke the mood that had been established. Following that with a musical number further made me question just what kind of show I was watching. The ensuing improvised section with face-offs between the tabla and Khan’s rhythmic movements started off brightly but soon meandered into rather repetitive territory for me as before.

So a little disappointing all in all, but it won’t put me off sampling bits of dance here and there if I get recommendations.

Running time: 2 hours
Programme cost: £4

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