Rising: Aakash Odedra Company
Review: Aakash Odedra Company presents Rising, The Oxford Playhouse, 1Final Performance at The Lighthouse, Poole, 7 July, Book here.
[Disclosure: The Oxford Playhouse provided me with a ticket for the purposes of this review.]
Rising is dancer and choreographer Aakash Odedra’s debut dance production – launched in 2011 and restaged in 2021. When it first debuted, Rising catapulted Odedra into the small pool of truly great, innovative contemporary dancers/choreographers, and, after experiencing the show, I can understand why.
Rising is made up of four short solo dance pieces, each choreographed by a different choreographer. These four pieces are some of the most original, exciting, and innovative choreography available today. Some of it is literally breath-taking.
Although the whole work is for solo dancer, Odedra does in fact have a dance partner on stage – light. Michael Hulls is the lighting designer for two of the pieces – In the Shadow of Man and CUT and Willy Cessa is the lighting designer for Constellation. These are lighting designers at the top of their game – not just using light to enhance the dancer on stage, but using light as a dancer in its own right.
Sometimes the light brushes across the moving dancer – showing us the dancer only where the light hits. Sometimes the light disappears altogether, leaving the dancer dancing in darkness, barely visible in the ambient light - until it comes back, on its own terms and in its own time.
The assured use of light coupled with Odedra’s physicality is what makes these pieces. I don’t believe that there are many contemporary dancers today who are capable of performing them. Odedra seems to have the most extraordinary fast twitch muscles. He frequently performs series of movements that are so fast, the human eye can’t distinguish them and as a result, he appears to be slowly moving across the stage as a blurred shape.
In The Shadow of Man, Odedra uses his exceptional physical skills to completely transform into animalistic shapes by, what looks like, unhinging his shoulder blades from his body and broadening and flattening his back to create truly inhuman structures and movements. Similarly, at the end of Constellation – he is sitting, like some mystic yogi, in front of a flickering fire. With each flicker of the flames, Odedra appears to expand and transform into some sort of pre-Vedic destroyer god.
Rising is a very special show – full of wonder, elegance and divine light.
If you have a chance to see it – you must.
The Oxford Playhouse
Rising was the first show I have been to in real life at the Oxford Playhouse since the pandemic struck. Even though it’s been over 2 weeks since I’ve been fully vaccinated, I was still nervous.
The Oxford Playhouse is to be commended on how it has managed to create an environment that felt as safe as it can be while making it feel natural and unforced.
The reduced capacity seating was truly lovely – 2 seats free all around your bubble – meant that I actually got to use the arm rest – usually it is boorishly claimed - I believe there is some research on gender politics and public space that explains all my experiences with shared arm rests. I didn’t have a sweaty stranger press their leg against mine – again – see gender politics research. In fact, the experience was so positive, I’m not sure how I’ll feel when normal capacity resumes. Will I be able to put up with all the micro aggressions and inconveniences that certain theatre goers have had to put up with as a matter of course? I don’t know.
All this is to encourage people to book whatever you can at the Oxford Playhouse while this lovely, spacious and safe-feeling social distancing is in place!
Perhaps over the last year and half, we have forgotten how to be in a theatre, but in all the shows I've been to in real life since the pandemic, people all around me have continued to use their phones throughout the show. Some have continued to text, scroll through their twitter/insta feed and some people have watched the entire show through their screen – because they are filming the show.
I realise that the type of person who reads this blog isn’t the type of person to do that sort of thing. However, I think I should mention it here. Using your phone during the show, even for a few seconds, is detrimental to the experience of the show – for yourself, for the artist and for the other audience members - even the tiniest sliver of blue light shines out and catches people’s eyes.
Filming a show is not fair to the artist – not only because it’s copyright infringement (and is, therefore, illegal) but also because it presents a feeble, amateurish, unintended record of the artist’s work – directly and indirectly harming an artist’s livelihood.
But the most important reason of all to put down your phone is so that you can experience the work, in all its wonder, in the glorious present.
Be in the theatre, in the moment, experiencing something awe-inspiring – a miraculous, beautiful, real-life experience, access to which marks you as one of the lucky ones.
Photographs of Odedra by Chris Nash.
Odedra on stage with patterned light is video still from trailer.