Confluence @ Sadler’s Wells, London

cast list
Akram Khan, Nitin Sawhney, Eulalia Ayguade Farro, Young Jin Kim, Andrej Petrovic, Zhenxin Zhang, Shanell Winlock, Set-Byeol Lim, Navala Chaudhari, Aref Durvesh, Ian Burdge, Taalis, Ashwin Srinivasan, Alies Sluiter, Nicki Wells

directed by
Akram Khan and Nitin Sawhney
Coming at the end of Sadlers Wellss two-week long Svapnagata Festival, exploring Indian music and dance, Confluence stars the curators of the event, Akram Khan and Nitin Sawhney.

Khan and Sawhney believe that this final show represents more than just a retrospective of their work together.

The artistic collaboration involves a spiritual connection between the dancer and musician (and their respective companies), and has demanded the suspension of egos in pursuit of a common and higher ground.

Their joint objective manifests itself from the start as both sit on stage and speak in unison about an encounter with a soulless security guard that makes them realise how much of their identity is contained within their passports.
The piece also, however, exposes the cracks in their overall concept, as their individual styles are too different for them to truly act as one. Khans accompanying hand movements are (predictably) more accomplished, and his speaking voice the more engaging.

Technically, the show witnesses a series of short pieces that involve music and dance in equal measure, as well as conversation and spoken routines. In practice, however, it comes across as predominantly a dance piece supported by music, especially since Sawhneys band performs from behind a screen so that we only see them at certain moments when the lighting permits.

Similarly, when Sawhney tells Khan a (purposely) boring story, Khan ignores him by indulging in his own routine. When Khan, however, reciprocates with his own dull anecdote, Sawhney can only respond by walking off the stage leaving Khans monologue to be accompanied, once again, by dance. Nevertheless, it is incredible to watch here one person gripping anothers head by the ears to prevent their entirely floppy body from collapsing in a heap.

Elsewhere, much of the dancing is truly breath-taking. Two people bind themselves around each other to form a four-armed Shiva that writhes frenetically. A line of dancers thrust their arms forward at a diagonal and then spin them around their heads, and Khan whirls almost uncontrollably, creating a multi-dimensional effect as his shadow appears on a number of screens.

Nevertheless, across the 70-minute running time there are a few too many low points for the evening to feel truly phenomenal. None of this is meant as a criticism of Sawhney, a musician who is pre-eminent in his field, and whose guitar playing on the night is particularly fine. The trouble is simply that the show takes place too much on Khans ground in order to fulfil its objective of nurturing a collective unconscious between the two art-forms.

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