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Bahok

Akram Khan Company
Sadler's Wells
(2009)

Production photo

Over the last few years, celebrated choreographer and dancer Akram Khan has been collaborating with exciting partners, and has created three duets in which he has performed. Bahok gives him the opportunity to choreograph from the outside, and get his teeth into an ensemble production.

Interestingly, we can see echoes from these previous duets in bahok. A couple are interviewed by an immigration officer, reminiscent of a scene from zero degrees. There is a beautiful duet between Andrej Petrovic and Cheng-Fung Wu which recalls Khan and Sylvie Guillem's exploration of duality and mirroring in the body - Fung Wu's legs wrap around the neck of Petrovic allowing them to become one body whose arms elegantly swoop in unison and echo each other's movement. Tying everything together is a question of identity and of origin - something with which Khan's work is constantly concerned.

We are in a waiting room - it could be an airport in any city in the world. The inhabitants are waiting - jumping to life as soon as there is any flicker of life from the mechanical announcement screen which will eventually tell them where they are to go. Instead they get messages such as "Delayed", "Please Wait" and "Rescheduled". We are introduced to eight characters, each with their own story of disconnection, each searching for home in different ways. Shanell Winlock carries only her father's shoes in her bag, Saju is constantly speaking on his mobile phone and Eulalia Ayguade Farro tries to figure out where she belongs by questioning the cultural origins of those around her. When she suggests that Petrovic is a Russian he explodes with anger - a reaction which at first divides the group in violence, but eventually brings them together in a gentle group hug.

Apart from Zhenixin Zhang's electric opening solo, the exhilarating group sequences are the highlight of the evening. The company spin themselves backwards, leaping with poker straight limbs as if they were the aeroplanes they so desperately want to board. Nitin Sawhney's infectious score explodes to life at these moments, perfectly complementing and inspiring the multi-textured movement of the nomads searching within themselves and each other for who they are.

As the screen begins to speak directly to its followers ("Are you lost?", "Where are you going?") everyone comes together again. As Farro dials a phone number and says "Mama" the lights go out on this sweet-natured exploration of our migrant culture, of our concept of home, and our endless search for where we belong. It certainly makes me want to call home more - but also to continue the search for my heart's home.

Reviewer: Terry O'Donovan