Midway through the inimitable Akram Khan’s new show, Gnosis, he chats nonchalantly to the audience, introducing us to the talented musicians with whom he is sharing a stage.
He appears humble in their presence, before treating us to an improvised duel with Sanju Sahai on tabla and vocals. It is light and fun, perfectly capturing the importance Khan places on being fragile and nervous within performance.
The evening’s exploration of Kathak and characters from the Mahabarata twists and changes as much as Khan’s impressive spinning and stamping. Partly a celebration of tradition, elsewhere Khan directly shakes up that tradition by saying the performance is more like a gig.
It is the second half which confirms Khan’s incredible talent and skill. Yoshie Sunahata, a world class taiko drummer, portrays the wife of a blind king who blindfolds herself for life. As she perfectly mirrors the movement of a drummer with stiff, lightning-speed hands she captivates her audience in a second.
Khan joins her for a duet so immensely powerful it is impossible to tear your eyes from these two swirling bodies which evoke life’s battles and death’s despair with the most simple of gestures.
Sunahata is a revelation as a drummer, dancer and spine-tingling vocalist. As Khan is left on stage alone her haunting voice immerses him in a spiral of conflict. His body is whipped into a state of utter frenzy which appears to be humanly impossible. Standing still he flutters and shakes with incredible speed seemingly evaporating before our eyes.