ONE by Amina Khayyam - A review for Pulse Asian Dance and Music Magazine (www.pulseconnects.com)

Amina Khayyam
University of Surrey Theatre

Reviewed By Lucinda Al-Zoghbi/Sian Goldby

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Does everything really begin with one or is it that everything ends with one?’
Forming the basis of her solo kathak work, choreographer and dancer Amina Khayyam explores the numerous concepts behind the idea of One. She divides her piece into four sections, each questioning the place of One inside worldly time structures. Where does One fit within a performance? Can One ever exist?
Khayyam’s eighteen years’ training have seen her tour nationally and internationally, for companies such as Akademi and Sonia Sabri amongst others. Khayyam’s artistic focus is a collaborative one, which celebrates the stylistic uniqueness of classical kathak dance and its place within an ever-evolving modern context.     
 There is evidence of this generous collaborative spirit between the dancer and her musicians, who share a deep understanding through the language of kathak. One features Debasish Mukherjee on tabla, Tarun Jasan on sarod and vocals from Lucy Rahman, and explores her ongoing work with Mukherjee. Khayyam converses with the musicians through body language and musical structures upholding the inseparable link between the two. There is a great informality in the collaboration- it’s almost improvisatory, a refreshing approach when compared with a Western dance format.
 Stand-out images are dotted throughout the piece as reference points for the audience.  Scattered flowers provide a particularly memorable image as Khayyam playfully collects and throws them into the air.  This image is delivered with a smile that radiates throughout the auditorium to make this observer burst into a similarly beaming smile. Equally, it is impossible to look at her face and not be immediately whisked away; we tightly perch in our theatre seats whilst our minds float alongside Khayyam.  She has transported us to another world. We follow her onto a moonlit plane, where her veil flutters softly in the wind and the musky scent of dawn envelopes us.
Yes, in one sense Khayyam’s consecutive chakkadar spins and extremely fast tatkar are technically faultless. They flow effortlessly from her centre, delicately accentuated by flowery mudras. In another sense, movement doesn’t matter. With a strong abhinaya, Khayyam can reference emotive depths that span from sheer joy to deep sorrow, showing intense artistic negotiation between movement and intention. Her head tilts sweetly with her movement as she offers it to the audience, her expression filled with humble confidence.
 When thinking back on this piece it is hard to avoid the image of Khayyam’s exquisite expression entering the mind. One hears the phrase ‘her eyes are windows to her soul’ and many times discard it as inhuman nonsense. However, with Khayyam they really are. What power there is in her dance, in her story-telling, in her kathak. We cannot but yearn to encounter her again.
Khayyam for instance, moves to the microphone and is no doubt breathless, but continues to speak compact tukras and tihais, her tongue navigating the intricacies with ease. At some points the speaking is slightly out of time, however is noted and explained to the audience, and they begin again. This adds charm to the performance, involving the audience and strengthening the communicative bond. This accentuates a shared enjoyment of the dance and, as we move to the abhinaya, we are welcomingly entrusted to join Khayyam’s fascinating journey, becoming One with the dance.  The exquisite raag of the sarod and voice craft a detailed, heartfelt abhinaya.  It is this skill that makes Khayyam’s performance so powerful.  Her thumri is augmented with an extended structure and embellished movement, the accompaniment for which is calm, tranquil and yet so powerful.  

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