Until the Lions at the Roundhouse
An air of mystery and etherealness surrounds the stage at the Roundhouse, giving Akram Khan’s contemporary dance show a smoky start. The award-winning choreographer and dancer brings the chaos and the calm in this brilliant piece partially adapted from the glorious Indian Sanskrit Mahabharata.
A fusion of Asian traditional and contemporary dance, Khan’s show modernises history and gives the audience a multi-faceted view on a sacred story. Reworked from poet Karthika Nair’s book of the same name, the story centres on the enigmatic Amba, an Indian princess who is kidnapped by Bheeshma (played by Khan) on her wedding day to marry his brother instead. However, after finding out Amba is in love with another, Bheeshma’s brother rejects her, as does her lover and consequently Bheeshma. A woman desired by many becomes desired by none as the dance follows Amba’s transition into Shikhandi, a male reincarnation of herself, intent on exacting revenge on Bheeshma. Tightened spins and passion-fuelled stomps synonymous with the Indian classical dance style known as “Kathak”, lends a compelling and ritualistic feel to the performance.
The frenetic displays of movement are captivating to watch, reminiscent of Khan’s stellar performance at the London 2012 Olympics. Ching-Ying Chien plays Amba gracefully with every movement encompassing the emotion of the narrative. Equally admirable is Christine Joy Ritter’s strong performance as Shikhandi. The 360-degree stage provides a unique experience to watch each dancer’s performance in enlightening new angles.
The music is provided by the chorus whose charismatic delivery elevates the performance to a new level. At times, the uncertainty in the atmosphere can be a little uneasy to sit through but ultimately encourages the audience to watch on. The themes of love, revenge and betrayal are signalled emphatically by the music, lighting and speed of the dance giving you an immersive experience and euphoric end.
Until the Lions is a primitive story of passion and transcendence that successfully modernises a historical tale.
Until the Lions is on at the Roundhouse from 9th January until 24th January 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch Chief Executive & Artistic Director Alistair Spalding speak about the show here: