In 2013 one of the world’s most accomplished contemporary dancers, England’s Akram Khan, brought his magnum opus, Desh, to Saitama Arts Theater. It was part of a hugely successful world tour which cemented Khan’s reputation as a performer and choreographer at the top of his game. Desh, meaning homeland in Bengali, is a visually arresting testament to Khan’s Bengali ancestry and his personal quest to understand his own identity through this theatrical künstlerroman.
This time Khan’s company brings a truncated and more child-friendly version of Desh, titled Chotto Desh, to Yokohama’s Red Brick Warehouse performance space. With an added Japanese narration and some changes to the overall story of Desh, Nicolas Ricchini plays Khan and his struggle to come to terms with who he is as a human and as a dancer. Filipino Ricchini is masterful in his movement and transfixes the audience (many of whom were children) for the full hour-long performance. His body fluctuates between devastating speed and a graceful stasis which reflects the duality and multiplicity of Khan as a character split between England and his spiritual homeland of Bangladesh. This idea of duality is enhanced by the use of shadows and lighting design which throws up multiple people on the backdrop as Ricchini dances solo on the stage.
The production contains long narrative sections containing outstanding animated sequences—created by Tim Yip and Yeast Culture. They see the character Khan searching through seas, jungles and trees and being chased by animals such as elephants and crocodiles, as Ricchini interacts deftly with the animation. Ostensibly Chotto Desh deals with the search for identity: the complexity of those with multiracial backgrounds as well as those displaced by floods, other natural disasters and war. This thematic is beautifully represented in an incredibly moving tableau-vivant where Ricchini is confronted by a huge animated tank and recreates the Tank Man from the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989.
Chotto Desh veers into the political but it’s essentially a human story which will perhaps resonate strongly in Japan, a country which often likes to think of itself (albeit wrongly) as homogenous. Khan’s physical and mental struggles with his ancestry and identity are timely and apt as Japan finds itself in a period of flux, with more and more children being born into mixed race backgrounds. Ricchini is masterful in his representation of a person caught between his spiritual homeland and his adopted home in the West. Chotto Desh, then, is an artistic triumph and deserves to be seen.
August 23, 3pm
August 24, 3pm
August 25, 3pm
Under 24 (¥3,000)
Elementary and High School (¥1,500)
Yokohoma Red Brick Warehouse No. 1 3F Hall
1-1-1 Shinko, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa