What happens when you see contemporary dance collide with traditional North Indian kathak dance? Balbir Singh’s Dance Company was set up to explore the very answer to that question – teaching six trained contemporary dancers in the ancient art of kathak in just nine months. He avoids words like ‘fusion’ and ‘merging’ of dance styles – instead choosing ‘synthesis’ and ‘collision’. What this dance will look like on stage drew in a packed-out audience on Thursday night’s performance of his latest works – Trespass at The Patrick Centre, Birmingham – following the success of his début Play Of Percentages.
The opening scene of the dance is full of promise. Accompanied on stage by tabla, guitar, keys and wind instruments, the five astute dancers glide in slow motion towards the front of the stage, introducing us to this very unique style which is full of intrigue. But once the novelty of the choreography has taken hold, Balbir Singh fails to propel intricate movements to the next level of producing an engaging performance.
The movement itself is part of the inhabitation. Elements from each dance style appear hand-picked – the flat hands, wide pliés, and butterfly wrist curls of kathak combined with loose heads, high releases, and parallel développés from contemporary ballet. Balbir’s refusal to truly blend the styles comes at the price of each step appearing overly structured and jigsawed together. It is even possible to mark out different areas of the body moving in accordance with each style. Contemporary legs and back; kathak hands, feet and arms.