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Echoes / I Imagine review at Lilian Baylis Studio, London – ‘extraordinary versatility’

Aakash Odedra in Echoes at Lilian Baylis Studio. Photo: Nirvair Singh
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Two solo pieces, one performer. And yet so marked is the difference between the two it is hard to believe they are danced by the same man. Aakash Odedra’s mastery of Kathak is blazingly evident in the opening piece Echoes choreographed by Aditi Mangaldas.

Ropes of bells hang in in golden light as Odedra’s liquid movement shimmers and shifts from slow hand language to Dervish whirling and sudden, graceful leaps.

The resounding slap of bare feet on stage and the snapping slice of an arm like an axe into a tree resolve into something like an imprecation. Binding his calves with bell-bedecked ropes, he adds the characteristic Kathak chink-chink-chink to the variegated percussive soundscape as his feet flicker across a tracery of illuminated branches like a forest made of pure light. Even the tiniest movement is coloured by a sense of spiritual inquiry that is resolved in his final ascent along a rope of bells.

His own work, I Imagine, is more immediate, more political. Hatching out of a suitcase emblazoned with the Union flag, Odedra suggests the stowaway/immigrant trapped in a roomful of suitcases – human lost property. Using masks to represent his father and mother he acts out their characters with a virtuosity almost as impressive as his dancing.

“I would once again like to stand in the rain that has purpose – real purpose” says his father, revealing the immigrant’s paradox – homesickness for the place from which they have fled. It’s fierce and funny, melancholic and moving, with a sequence in which he stretches his shirt over his head that is genuinely disturbing, conjuring up images of torture and terror. Comparisons with Akram Khan are inevitable but fleeting. Odedra is his own man, has his own voice and follows his own star.

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Two solos display Odedra’s extraordinary versatility in Kathak and contemporary dance