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Sonia Sabri Company


by Shezad Khalil

May 2013

Established in 2002, the Sonia Sabri Company is committed to the exhibition of Kathak, a North Indian classical dance form. With their contemporary constructions, they seek to show Kathak as a progressive and forward-thinking mode of expression.

‘Kaavish’, understood as the attainment of a person’s yearnings and aspirations, is separated into two sections. The first half sketches and illustrates snippets of Artistic Director, choreographer and dancer Sonia Sabri’s creative excursion, complemented by live arrangements and previously unseen dance recordings.

‘Dayyari Ri’ from 2007’s ‘Nisbat’ opened the evening. A cheery construction, it is inspired by a Sufi idea - the human douses him/herself in the charisma of the Divine through the use of mimicry and harmonious motifs. Next was ‘Neon Dream’; a piece choreographed by Shobana Jeyasingh, which was also part of Sabri’s 2009 ‘Parallels’ tour. An ‘abrupt’ and urban-based composition influenced by the severity of the metropolis during the hours of darkness, the flashing city signs and the radiant streaks of lights as vehicles hurriedly pass by. The first half of the celebratory show concluded with ‘Baje’ from ‘Red’ (2005). Inspired by the ecstatic gestures of Shiva and rich in character portrayal and emotion, the sequence shows-off Sabri’s ability to marry movement with rhythm and tempo. Film clips of other performances by Sabri as well as rehearsal footage were injected throughout.

The second half of the performance introduced a brand new piece: ‘Labyrinth’, a duet, choreographed and danced by Sabri and Bharata Natyam performer, Ash Mukherjee. This composition marked the end of Sonia Sabri Company’s first decade, almost a full stop to this first chapter of Sabri’s work. Initially, ‘Labyrinth’ was inspired by Woody Allen’s 1968 film ‘Death Knocks’, and Franz Schubert’s 1824 String Quartet ‘Death and the Maiden’, particularly in relation to the meaning of death. Is death recognised as a negative or positive idea?

The dance led itself in the direction of the central character: a woman, epitomizing a sense of inner-conflict. Through time, she has become so negative that her negativity itself has formed an individual being; a living person. It is this negativity that takes her away from reality.

Yet, this is a composition that also looks beyond the pessimism of this woman. Through the dialogue of the Kathak and Bharata Natyam dancing bodies, it questions other narratives: death and life, the conscious and subconscious, reality and fantasy. Can this imaginary woman exist in her own right within the post-modern climate of the twenty-first century? This duet leaves the spectator to ponder if this empowered female character is in fact a glimpse of Sabri sowing the seeds of the next decade of her work.

‘Kaavish’ will continue to be touring throughout the UK. Visit Sonia Sabri Company’s website for forthcoming tour dates:

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