Asian Music and Dance


On a journey of parallel roads expect the following: switching lanes between a much-travelled older route with a recently ‘tarmacked’ one. The journey does not, however, guarantee the traveller reaching their intended destination.

The Sonia Sabri Dance Company presented ‘Parallels’ at Croydon’s Clocktower continuing its ‘quest to infuse … kathak with contemporary relevance’ with a mixed bill of solos (including choreographies by Shobana Jeyasingh and Lisa Torun), where  ‘… classical and cutting edge modern day interpretations of kathak [existed] side by side’.

Sabri’s first solo, self -choreographed and commissioned by The Place Prize in 2006, ‘Spill’, began with body percussive rhythms, a now familiar feature with Sabri, which eventually melted into the musical score. Her virtuosic hands played with the kathak vocabulary in an abstract manner. In a repetitive clubby mode kathak syllables stamped into the space with frustration, seemed lost. Adding to this commotion classical nuances edged their way in followed by African djembe rhythms. Alongside travelling floatingly, Sabri briefly played with some floor work and random kicks, as though she has dipped her toe into a familiar lake and was unsure if she wanted to dive in, even if she was a skilled swimmer.

‘Neon Dream’, choreo-graphed by Jeyasingh, presented several wonderful moments. Sabri’s movement and shaping had a refreshing attitude. Her stillness on a surface of a red-lit floor and glowing white squares became breathtaking, especially as her fingers flickered as a proud peacock to the sound of a record-scratching crackle in the score.

At the end Sabri disappeared without a confirmed exit, snatching away something strong and absolute. She had ventured with engaging energy, but fell short of travelling the extra mile.

In Torun’s ‘Trail’, Sarwar Sabri joined in on the tabla (and ghatam) complimenting a synthesised score. To a lime-green lit background Sabri finally makes use of the space’s depth, allowing it to open up, and her presence becomes alive within this contemporary setting. 

Here, as the city woman, she multi-tasks again with her quest, or ambition, to infuse against kathak bols bobbing along with soul rhythms, and with the soundscapes of children’s laughter floating up with seagulls’ squawking. Her gestures, that could sometimes be filmy, become natural, human … even herself. Even when she slips on trainers, like any other city woman, her movement quickly adapts between the conditions of formality and comfort. 

Sarwar joins her in the space, and they become passers-by, strangers on parallel journeys, even disconnected as dancer and musician. She leaves, fleeing as a desperate commuter at the end of her day. 

What became the interval felt like the end.

The second half, ‘Mosiac’ … her totally kathak offering was a majestic feast. Everything she attempted before with playing and dabbling on ideas and movement, here Sabri effortlessly gave and exhilarated. Here, with a sigh of relief, she was Sonia who could breathe again – without the demands or expectations from her previous to-do list of contemporary dance musts.  



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