On paper, it’s a bit of a hard sell. A show for children fusing contemporary dance and Indian Kathak, inspired by one man’s Bangladeshi heritage and his desire to become a dancer. Hardly the usual family fare.
Star rating: *****
The crucial ingredient here, however, is Akram Khan – one of the most exceptional British choreographers of all time. And yet calling him that doesn’t feel wholly right, for although Khan was born and brought up in London, so much of his output is infused with the cultures he was surrounded by as a child.
Which is what Chotto Desh is all about. Re-worked from Khan’s 2012 Olivier Award-winning solo, DESH, the show follows a young man trying to find his place in the world.
With a Filipino mother and Bangladeshi father, yet influenced by dance routines from America (Michael Jackson in particular), Khan begins to put all the pieces together and create his own style – much to his father’s disapproval.
All of this is conveyed through a mixture of choreography, spoken text and animation, cleverly re-shaped by director (and children’s theatre expert) Sue Buckmaster, to capture the attention and imagination of young audiences.
Just over half the show is Khan’s original work from DESH, the rest has been created with new dancers Dennis Alamanos and Nicolas Ricchini, who had the unenviable task of playing Khan – the most unique of dancers. Yet this, too, is achieved. Fast, dynamic moves, seamlessly blending Kathak with contemporary (and a bit of Jackson) fill the space.
A superb section, where Khan’s father’s face is daubed on to the top of the dancer’s bent-over head, brings several laughs. The animation scene, inspired by an old myth, is utterly captivating, and a sequence about conflict, beautifully scored by composer Jocelyn Pook, is deeply moving. An absolute triumph.