One of the benefits of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival is that the collective buzz it creates encourages us to enjoy performances and genres we might not otherwise seek out.
I was about to say that I have never seen Akram Khan’s work before – but we almost certainly all have as his company was one part of the magnificent 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, and he has enjoyed notable collaborations with performers such as Juliet Binoche and Kylie Minogue.
Chotto Desh means ‘small homeland’ and this show is an autobiographical look at the background that brought 42 year old Khan to his current fame as an innovative dance choreographer.
Dancer Dennis Alamanos has a fluidity and expression in his movement that I have never seen bettered – he is constantly moving and every single movement or gesture expresses a part of the story he tells, sometimes with such speed that you struggle to keep up. The story describes how Khan has a Bangladeshi father and a Fillipino mother, but was brought up in London where his father runs a restaurant. Much of the piece is about the difficult relationship with his father when as a teenager Khan knew he wanted to be a dancer, while father wanted a sensible lad who would help out more in the business. His mother, however, seems to have understood her son better.
The depiction of his father is sometimes hilarious but suggests a constant pressure on him, and this is contrasted with traditional Bangladeshi tales about a mythical child who adventures into the forbidden forest. The show mixes stunning visual graphics and an absolute minimum of props with Alamanos’s constant dance and gesture, set to moving music composed for the show by Jocelyn Pook.
The show comprises one single 65 minute performance with no respite or interval, and has visual and dialogue humour while keeping the narrative moving quickly too. As a showcase for storytelling through dance this show is hard to beat, with a joyous and energetic performance that captivates all who see it.