Gods & Monsters

Works that reflect the voice of God, but also the spirit of Tarantino

One of the most beautiful things ever seen took place in a gym on a cold dark street across from Section 8 housing and a synagogue on the Lower East Side. Eight people in white praised the music and danced with such joy that the space turned into a six-sided temple. Clare Byrne is a gifted choreographer and a messenger who believes in the connection to God through dance, and she has created a most incredible gift to her faith in both.

“Rend and Sew” is a masterwork of spiritually-inspired movement that dances beautiful, familiar, even husbandly bodies through magically lighted space to the music with all the passion, reflection, and conviction of a true healer commanding the crippled to walk, the blind to see, and the faithless to believe again.

The work is divided into two parts, and the audience viewing experience was likewise split—with seats on floor level and seats above; on both levels seating was available on opposite sides of the space. At the fun-filled, interactive half time, audience positions were inverted.

The choreography is similar for both sections, but not identical. Notably, the second section begins with a rousing, jubilant, soulful celebration of gospel music that transcends the score, sending the song up to the rafters through the leaping, strutting, stepping, jumping, arm raising, rapture of the energized ensemble. You can see the spirit of the music moving through them, and it is cathartic.

Whether dancing to calypso, Aretha, black spiritual or white spiritual, the multicultural cast of performers, guided by Byrne’s vision, brought the music and the work to a life that broke down the barriers such music often raises, and gave it a universality.

Akram Khan is a rising star, lighting a clear path for a bright future for contemporary dance—one that reflects the realities of world in which it is created. Blending traditions of modern and culturally specific dance, this wunderkind of the global village has synthesized a style that is highly original. Moreover, he can choreograph. Seamlessly fusing Kathak with modern and even elements of street dance, he is the concert dance equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino.

“Kaash,” which has a martial arts sensibility, is instantly visceral. It attacks the senses with a force that is not violent but—like the title, which means “if”—warns of it. The work begins with Inn-Pang Ooi on stage alone, facing away from the audience, still for a long while, as the ensemble enters the space. It ends with Ooi downstage center, facing away again, this time in movement, as his upper body collapses, spine arching and chest lifting, as his arms open out to the sides.

The work is full of sharp, fast, amazing turns; fascinating fast flourishes of movement, slow, purposefully unfolding gestures, repetition, accumulation, and variation. The energy is wild at times, but the movement always precise. Dressed in Saeunn Huld’s simple but attractive costumes—black pants and sleeveless tunics—the dancers’ action is cast against Anish Kapoor’s set design—a large white backdrop with a wide black panel at the center, the void. Nitin Sawhney‘s music drives the action, sometimes with almost too much force. John Oswald’s music provides a well-placed contrast, and a riveting floor solo by Moya Michael in silence.

At the center of the work is a kind of primer led by Khan and his outstanding cast, which includes Eulalia Ayguade and Shannell Winlock. Standing still at corresponding positions across the stage with Khan down stage right, they demonstrate an array of gestures as the choreographer provides the accompanying vocalizations. It is educational, evocative, and dialogic on a rare scale. Khan has a clear and present voice and vision. He and his sensational dancers are sure to be back in New York again soon.

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