Abhinaya And Rasa In The Work Akram Khan : Extension In Contemporary Kathak/Indian Fusion

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Question :


Master's Level Thesis in the field of Social Science.

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Answer :


This study investigateson the British born Bangladeshi descent performer and choreographer, Akram Khan and his concept of hybrid or fusion dance practice. This study attempts to identify and analyze the components of Indian Classical dance specifically, Abhinaya and Rasa in Khan’s works. In this research, the primary argument highlights the fact that Khan’s movements and mannerism associated with his works go beyond the popular perception of ‘Indian fusion dancing’ or ‘Contemporary Kathak’. His multicultural identity and its effects on his compositions are of such aesthetic value that transcends the audience. How the concept of contemporary Kathak varies in Khan’s work, has also been discussed. The unique and signature performance style of Khan has been associated with his cultural hybridity and his major contribution in the genre if dance have been analyzed in detail. The topic Abhinaya and Rasa in the work of Akram Khan: extensions in contemporary Kathak/ Indian fusion also focuses on how Khan’s work allows the ambiguity of discussion regarding the fact that Abhinaya and Rasa could be the extensions in contemporary dance. 


I am extremely thankful and obliged to all the individuals who have helped me with their direct and indirect support to conclude this study successfully. I convey my gratitude to all my professors who believed in my dissertation topic and enlightened me with several aspects of this dance form. Also, I would acknowledge the help of the two dancers accustomed with Khan’s work for their time and patience. Without their interview the work will not have been possible. Finally, I would like to thank my peers and my family for their constant support as they haqve endured my tantrums during the conduction of the study.


Akram Khan is a prolific choreographer in contemporary dance and has been known to declare that dance can transcend and break through many barriers, which other things cannot, represents the existential dilemma of barriers, which is present in depth of his psyche. Well known for his fusion of Kathak with contemporary dance, Akram Khan is an English dancer of Bangladeshi descent. His movement vocabularies are an epitome of his feelings and expressions. This study explores to attempt to identify the use of aesthetic and authentic components of Abhinaya and Rasa in Akam Khan’s works.

Figure 1

(Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

Bharata Muni in his treatise on Dance namely Natyashastra has devoted different chapters on Abhinanya and Rasa. Chapter 6 and chapter 7 are devoted to Rasa which means sentiments and Bhava or emotions. In chapters 8 to 14 he discusses angikabhinaya and in chapters 15 to 22 vacikabhinaya. The concept of rasa is an unique concept that is formulated to Natya in his Natyashastra. Later on the Rasasutra became an integral part of aesthetics and all poetics. Raghavan in his research paper argues that rasa in Sanskrit indicates flavor or savor or relish. The primary aim of aesthetics is to experience the realization of rasa. It is a vague attempt to summarize the meaning of rasa in one word. Asha Choubey in her article ―Sophocles and Indian Poetics: A study of Oedipus in the Light of Rasa Theory quotes Bharata‘s rasa-sutra, ―Vibhavanubhava-vyabhicari-sanyogadrasanispatih‖ and gives its English translation like this: ―The realisation of rasa results from the union of three elements—vibhava,anubhavaand vyabhicari. In Natyashastra Bharat has explained that sentiment or rasa is generated by the union of the three determinants vibhava or the consequent, anubhavaand the transitory emotions or vyabhicari. As commented by Bharata if Rasa is the purpose of aesthetics then abhinaya is the medium of brining rasa to the spectators. It can be understood by the etymology of the word. ‘ni’ means or carry and ‘abhi’ is the preposition that means towards. Abhinaya has been classified into four kinds in Natyashastra. The classifications are angika or physical, vacika or verbal, sattvika or emotional and aharya or material. Angikabhanaya means conveying the meaning through bodily movements. According to him angikabhanaya is possible to achieve through three chief ways which are sarira or acting through limbs, mukhaja or acting through face and cestakrta or movements of the whole body.

Angikabhanaya Dance form

Figure 2

(Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

Abhinaya and Rasa play an important role in expressing the emotions and expressions through predominant Indian classical dance styles. It is also important to note that, in Kathak, Abhinaya and Rasa are the predominant intrinsic factors attributing to the development of the dance style.  On the other hand, many dancers and artists have suggested that in Akram Khan’s choreographies a sense of ‘double consciousness’ of two cultures has been felt(Rubidge cited in Brigin, 2001, 103). Ideas of cultural hybridity and the implications of a multicultural community are often explored in Khan’s works. His oscillation between overlapping cultures has impacted his choreography that often exists (Mitra, 2015). His ‘subconscious mixing of the learning process of Kathak and Contemporary’ has been associated with Johnson’s theory of cognitive unconsciousness. The mind develops a thought express accordingly when it translates what has been perceived through the sensory elements of the body (Mitra, 2015).

Concepts relating to rasa apply equally to all forms or art and literature, but have been particularly refined regarding poetry and drama. It explains how genuine aesthetic pleasure essentially transcendental and it leads to the act of creation. For the audience it is a mind captivating experience and the audience functions as an inherent observer and their pleasure depends on the magnitude of the work which has been captivating them with its divine expression. The cultural hybridity helps in the emergence of new genres. In this study, the notion of cultural hybridity has been associated with the features of Abhinaya and Rasa in Akram Khan’s work. 

 Graphical representaiton of Abhinaya and Rasa

Figure 3

(Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

Chapter 1 : Indian Classical Dance : Kathak , Abhinaya and Rasa


Kathak is an ancient dance style of originating from North India where a complete story is revealed through charismatic expressions. The philosophies of Abhinaya and Rasa forms the key ingredients to this specific dance form. Abhinaya and Rasa are ancient Sanskrit terms which means the skill of conveying emotions (Bhava) and revelation of aesthetic enjoyment to express the substance of the art form.

Kathak dance form

Figure 3

(Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

Abhinaya in Kathak

Abhinaya indicates the art of expressing a meaning through gestures and movements. The plain definition is from the Sanskrit language “Abhi” which means toward – with the root “Ni” – to direct. Abhinaya thus defines asto evoke the audience towards a specific state of being or feeling. In Kathak, Abhinaya has been divided into two distinctions which are Gatabhava and Abhinaya proper.

Gatabhava is performed without words as the dancer enters in the space or stage of performance which is known as Gatapalta and GataNikas. After the dancer enters the space he or she presents brief pieces based on the mythological stories of the Gods mainly Lord Krishna and the ‘Gopis’. The Abhinaya is performed via different musical and poetic compositions (Mitra, 2015). Initially, this practice emerged from the performances of the Rasadhari dancers to the singing of Dhruvapad and Prabandh. Thumri and Dadra are the major musical components that are used in the practice of Abhinaya.

Rasa in Kathak

The Natyashastra is the primary doctrine of dance written by sage Bharatamuni enumerates the use of nine main Rasa’s. In short Rasa means sentiments or emotional state of mind. In Kathak these nine types of sentiments are used to depict all kind of human experiences (Mitra, 2015). The dancers express Rasa through Bhavas and it is often considered to be the subordinate to Bhavas. Bhava indicates the mental state of a human being. Akram Khan competently shows his ability to produce the portrayal of mental state swiftly. The representation of his mental state often portrays the complexities of his multicultural identity. Each Rasa has been associated with a permanent (Sthayee Bhava) (Mitra, 2015)…

Asscociated with mythological connotations: 

Kathak is one out of the eight Indian traditional dance styles that mimics the body postures of the primordial gods and goddesses of Hindu mythology. It displays the mythological stories of ancient India through its enthralling and captivating components such as Abhinaya, Rasa, time cycles, Chakars(Pirrouttes) and the interplay between speed and stillness.

The gestures are known as Hasta or Mudra, are symbolic to this specific form of dance style. There are generally two movements in Bharatnatyam. One is abstract and the other is expressive. The abstract form reflects decoration, rhythm and beauty and on the other hand expressive movements exhibits emotions through the means of hand movements, complex footsteps and genuine facial expressions. A genius Bharatnatyam dancer is fully capable of revealing the deep inner psychology of human beings through a vocabulary of alluring body language and fascinating facial expressions(Stevens, 2016). 

Kathak  mimics the body postures of the primordial gods and goddesses of Hindu mythology. Several dance forms like Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam, Kathak. The Kuchipudi dance style imitates the body posture of Lord Krishna. This specific form of dance style portrays different achievements and accomplishments of Lord Krishna during his time. The mysterious and loving relationship between Lord Krishna and Radha gets reflected through the dance style of Kuchipudi. On the other hand, Kathak displays the mythological stories of ancient India through its enthralling and captivating dance style. Even in the contemporary period infusion of foreign dance styles and subjects into Kathak has been incorporated. Bharatnatyam is also one of the acclaimed and mysterious dance styles of traditional India. The amalgamation of Abhinaya and Rasa is an indispensable segment in this particular dance style. The gestures known as Hasta or Mudra are symbolic to this specific form of dance style. The expressions and emotions of a young woman get reflected in this form of dance format. Especially when observed from a man’s point of view, Bharatnatyam proves to be captivating and magical. There are generally two movements in Bharatnatyam. One is abstract and the other is expressive. The abstract form reflects decoration, rhythm and beauty and on the other hand expressive movements exhibits emotions through the means of hand movements, complex footsteps and genuine facial expressions.

A genius Bharatnatyam dancer is fully capable of revealing the deep inner psychology of human beings through a vocabulary of alluring body language and fascinating facial expressions(Stevens, 2016).

Chapter 2  :Akram Khan 

During the 1990’s and the twenty-first century, people became very much aware of feminism, postmodernism, cultural studies, studies related to race and ethics, post structuralism. These ideas, theories and political movements are interconnected to each other when it comes to the study of dance and human movement systems. The human movement systems reflect on the idea of the impact of dance on the construction or challenges related to the determination of gender and sexuality (Mitra, 2015). It also portrays how the effects of colonialism and imperialism have taken its toll on the dance practices, and how dance was used to demonstrate cultural and ethical differences of different traditions. In short, it can be said that dance establishes ideological concurrence and a medium of resistance and social changes. Every aspect of different dance styles of the world has a deep and authentic historical background. The emergence of different dance styles is not mere complex body movements and footsteps. All the dance forms of the world try to convey some message, through the expressions and body languages. In order to understand the significance of Khan’s choreography it is important to understand the concept of Abinaya and Rasa. Abhinaya and Rasa are coherent part in Kathak and Khan’s work often incorporates components of the Indian Classical form.

Indian Classical form

(Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

There is not enough evidence found that directly indicates Khan’s use of abhinaya and rasa in his choreography. Previous research works on Akram Khan do not focus on the use of abhinaya and rasa. Therefore, in order to understand the essence of his choreography it is important to focus on theses aspects.

As per a newspaper report, it is hard to believe that Khan was initially forced into dancing by his mother. He started his dance training at an early age with the practice of Kathak and other folk dances. The influence of the early practice is prevalent in his style and movements. His form and movements are not only the collaborative of his early practice but a thorough study which he has done in Leicester. He accurately studied Martha Graham, Merce Cunnihamand Pina Bausch. His acumen of the distinctive and fascinating physical language has been afflicted into his choreography from the elaborate study of these pioneers of contemporary dancing.  Khan also mentioned that classical dance has a distinctive code and language which requires to be connected with the dancers personal journey. Though he belongs to the contemporary domain of dancing, he takes into account the elements of Kathak and other Indian classical dance forms.

(Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

As per the suggestion of RoyonaMitraKhan’s language of dance expresses resistance because of the challenges that he faced because of performing as a British- Muslim choreographer. These challenges are associated with race, gender, ethnicity and religion. RoyonaMitra argues that Khan has not contemporized the North Indian classical dance form of Kathak. Rather he has generated an unique language from the layered South-Asian dramaturgical principles from his Kathak training and infused it into the emotive and politicized manifestations of British contemporary dance and along with that he has transformed the British contemporary dance and its dialogue through the physical theatre.

His roots and influence on the contemporary dance

A thorough and scrutinized literature review will be conducted regarding the contribution of dancer and choreographer Akram Khan into the world o contemporary dance. His unconventional infusion of western dance forms into the Indian traditional dance styles has left the world speechless and completely spell bound. His endowment to the Indian classical dance forms wills the topic of this literature review. A thorough study  regarding the artist’s influence in modifying the ancient classical dance forms of India will be necessary in executing the core topic of discussion.  

Impact of leadership on Health Service

(Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

Akram Khan has evidently changed the Brititish contemporary dance into intercultural ways. When khan talks about his renowned Kathak Guru PratapPawar’s influence upon his dance and choreography. In order to portray creative and contemporary work Khan does not mix modern techniques in Kathak, rather he uses Kathak in order to present a modern work. Infusion of Kathak into the modern contemporary work takes a specific shape and structure in Khan’s aesthetic of performance and also catalyzes the process of his ‘new interculturalism’. His new movement experiments have been enriched with his existing knowledge and practice of abhinaya from his Kathak training. Perhaps, his treatment of abhinaya is not a linear one rather, he uses it in a complex and intercultural manner. He reincarnates the contemporary British dance through the elements of abhinaya in different dimensions. In order to narrate stories which represents the stories of his life and other 21st century realities through the use of Sanskritized language of abhinaya which has been strictly codified in the Natyashastra. In his choreography this codified language of abhinaya works parallel along with other more western dramaturgical codes in order to make his choreography understandable to his predominantly white and Western audience as they are not aware of the culturally specific codes of abhinaya. In a more critical level Khan alters and interrupts which has been traditionally considered the codes of abhinaya through the language of gestures which is depended upon the use of non-cultural specific everyday gestures along with that retaining the emotive power and mimetic form of the gestures.

Khan, in more than one interview has verified that he has been enthralled by the thriller dance routines of Michael Jackson. He had been taught Bangladeshi folk dance by his mother and also learnt Kathak from guru Sri PratapPawar. Khan in his personal interview mentioned that he had undertaken dancing in order to obtain his hyper active energy. It can be understood from his energetic movements. However, he negated the fact that his dance is about his political views. On the contrary he danced in order to challenge the traditional belief that Kathak is a tool to preserve the classical form and it is important to avoid its contamination through the contemporary art practices. His dancing, indeed has been an instrument to dismantle the established norms. By practicing such, he has challenged the norms of gender, ethnicity, religion and race.

Male south Asian dancers 

(Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

Male south Asian dancers have been considered as rarity but the domain of dance has been dominated by white dancers. Kathak has been developed from ancient and peripatetic bards who have interpreted different stories through the movements and abhinayaand also depicts the story of ancient epics. When it shifted from the Hindu temples to the Islamic courts, it grew popularity due to Islamic influence. It is also often considered to be the ancestor of the Spanish Flamenco as it uses lightning fast spins which is punctuated by statuesque stillness, fluid arm movement and rhythmically controlled foot-stamping and percussive ankle bells. His first full length choreographed work Kaash (2002) has shown a linkage between physics and Hindu philosophy. Khan does not use the body of the dancers of his company as tools, rater, he emphasizes on using their creativity as a tool of their expression. Abhinaya or movement and expression or bhava have always gained much importance in Khan’s works. He has often mentioned that from Classical art he prefer to borrow the universal elements and he never uses the elements of which the pathway is not known to him. Thus the elements like abhinaya and rasa are the elements which he often incorporates in order to portray the emotions and the feelings through the movements and expressions of the dancers. While classical in him seeks spirituality, contemporary in him often seeks science.

In his contemporary dance presentations the storytelling has been often found to be essential. For example, Zero Degrees (2005), Kaash(2002) and Bahok (2008) have underlying stories that Khan wants to convey to his audience. Elements of Indian mythology and ancient Indian epics also play a dominant role in Khan’s work. Gnosis was based on a tale from Mahabharata which depicts the story of a blindfolded queen and it developed into a Kabuki inspired mother-son duet. Though he is an admirer of the Kabuki and the Noh Theatre, according to him such forms never accepted him because of his fast body movements.

Akram Khan is one of the most prolific and appealing contemporary dancer who firstly wants to conceptualize what he wants to explore. The previous research works has focused on Khan being the British-Indian dancer who has infused the elements of Kathak into contemporary British dancing. The paper of RoyonaMitra attempts to find the roots of his cultural heritage and how he uses his movements in order to break the shackles of national boundaries. RoyaonaMitra focuses on Khan’s multicultural identity and how it has influenced his movements and choreography. How Khan has used the mode of dancing as a form of resistance has been elaborately identified and discussed by the researcher. How dancing has been suppressed by the patriarchal notion and it has been further complicated by examining through the context of British-Indian Diaspora and she uses the example of Akram Khan in order to bring out the complexity. The researcher has identified him to be an highly acclaimed global phenomenon and one of the first from his diasporic community to acquire such a dominant position in the contemporary dance of British stage. The researchers argues on Khan’s infusion of South- Asian elements in the contemporary dance and also identifies Khan’s use of Abhinaya in his choreography.

Evolution of dance form in respect to cultural changes

The society undergoes a spontaneous process of change. The cultural changes that take place in the society need to incorporated in the different forms of art prevalent in the society. It can be music, dance and even painting. Art is basically a medium by which the grievances and crisis of the people get reflected and conveyed to the inhabitants of the society(Mitra, 2015). Any kind of political turmoil or social issues by which people become rebellious and conscious, makes them enough aggressive to raise their inner voices through the medium of art. Evolution of different dance forms has also taken place in order to reflect some noticeable and unacceptable practices of the society. On the other hand, dance styles have evolved to convey certain emotions and sentiments that the society need to comprehend. Changes or the evolution of the society have directly influenced the different art forms. The responsibility of the artists are immense when it comes to bring forward the shortcomings or the drawbacks of the society.  

 Cash flows from operating system

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Cultural borrowings and multi cultural identities

Akram Khan and other eminent dance professionals of the world had injected different forms of dance styles into certain form of dance formats. It had happened in the past and it will happen in the coming future. This infusion has purposely been done by the professionals to extract the essence of that certain dance form. Cultural borrowing in dance forms becomes mandatory when an artist wants to portray the variations in the culture of different societal backgrounds. 

The concept of cultural borrowing has been included in this evolved dance form because of the natural nature of the dance form, which is a result of cultural fusion. The cultural borrowing is generally taking different ideas and practices from an external cultural. Different artists from all over the world have used cultural borrowing in the piece of art. This has helped them in innovate new idea and develop new piece of art for their admirer. The admirers are introduced with this new external cultural facts and it enhances the ideas of art worldwide. The human perspectives are broad enough and also compassionate enough to express the different dance forms. In this cultural fusion of this modern dance form, these perspectives have expanded the nature of connection with the Indian mythological connotations.

The idea of cultural borrowing has been incorporated in this dance form to upgrade and design this dance form. The contemporary dance style of the west in this dance form has correctly correlated the cultural globalization. It also represents the immigration and multicultural nature of Khan’s intercultural creativity. The multicultural identity is mainly formulated with the different norms and values, which are associated in a specific piece of art. This new dance form is a creation of mythological connotations, which shows the intercultural creativity of the choreographer. 

Subtle interplay between stillness and speed has been found in this dance form which is an addition in this. The multicultural identical evidence of the dance form is a rendered through complex footwork of extreme speed and also mathematical precision. It also includes rebranding nature of the western contemporary dance form.

Chapter 3 : understanding Khan’s work through the lens of the dancers of his company

In response to the first question of how Akram projects the use of Abhinaya and Rasa in his works neither interviewee responded. I would say this was because they did not quite know or understand the concepts of Abhinaya and Rasa. I could have perhaps made this clearer to them however, I was partly interested in finding out if he imparts the philosophies that support Kathak in his dance making processes. 

The second question of how does Akram’s work goes beyond the term Indian fusion in turn went in some part to answering the first question. In order to understand the kinesthetic of the quality of dance style presented byAkram Khan, it was necessary to engage with the vocabulary he uses in his dance forms. This vocabulary is drawn out of contemporary dance idioms and Kathak. Kristina mentioned Khan’s embodiment of ‘electric movements’, which are refined by his biographical situations along with his interactions with the wider field of British South Asian arts. I take this to mean, electric movements, as a dynamic (electric) gathering of different dance styles. The movement language embodied by Akram Khan is generated from affiliations with complex cultural traditions and histories. Kristina emphasised the training that Khan received in Kathak but that his work is “evolving every minute/ every year/ every project/ production” (personal communication, date of email).

My second question was asked to Sade about his opinion on whether Akram’s work has managed to go beyond the term Indian fusion. Sade emphasized on the creative process, which tends to deny its exploratory spirit of discovery. He replied that the movement of Akram Khan is productive as well as creative and it presents an infusion of the varied methods of contemporary with a form, which is predominantly classical Indian. Khan’s dance styles are evolving everyday, and attains improvement with every upcoming production that he received. On the other hand, Sade went on to say, that he being an artist finds it intriguing to be working with Akram as he imposes several different dance styles in his dance. As Sade promulgated about the changing modern world, he also emphasised on the fact that, due to the change in society and in the world, Khan attempts to implement new techniques and forms in his dance style in order to attain uniqueness. 

My third question was regarding the conceptual understanding of Abhinaya and Rasa. None of the interviewees responded to this question as well. This evidently shows their inability regarding the understanding of the concept Abhinaya and Rasa. Abhinaya and Rasa are two of the primary elements of Indian Classical dance forms and Indian dancers are quite aware of theses concepts. Considering their Western origin and the dance form that they primarily practice it can be understood that they are not acquainted to both of theses concepts. It is important to be familiar with the concept of Abhinaya and Rasa in order to understand the significance of Khan’s work. After the coinage of the concept of rasa, the rasa sutra became the impending element for all the poetics, who intended to implement the aspect of rasa in their poems. She commented and placed her view on the fact that, in dancing, rasa and abhinaya are considered to be the pillars of dancing styles and is essential for formulating the hidden meaning behind every style of dancing. Without proper abhinaya or rasa, a dancer cannot attain success in achieving as successful performance. Furthermore, she concluded by saying that, Akram Khan ensures that these two elements are in proper beland in his dancing styles. 

My next question to the dancers was regarding the acknowledgment of Abhinaya ans Rasa in Khan’s work. None of the respondents could answer the question because they are not sure about the answer because they are not familiar with the concept of Abhinaya and Rasa. Khan’s dancing styles are closely associated with the impending elements of rasa and Abhinaya. Abhinaya and Rasa plays an important role in the dance forms that are being propagated by Khan. Due to the changes taking place in the modern world, Khan intends to bring out new and unique dance forms, which attracts the attention of the spectator. When a dancer performs on stage, they need to ensure that they are implementing rasa and abhinaya in their ways of expressing their emotions and feelings through dance. Akram Khan believes that dance is the predominant and significant way of transcending and breaking through barriers, while other things cannot. The way a dancer successfully imposes their emotions and expressions through their graceful postures, a normal individual cannot portray their sense of feeling through words. On the other hand, he further emphasises on the concept of abhinaya to be an important element in the dance forms that are being initiated by Akram Khan. 

Then I asked the dancers what precisely makes it different from other processes of learning choreography movement materials the dancers emphasized on the fusion that incorporates with Indian Classical Dancing. As Kristina was asked about the difference between the other process of choreography movement with that of Khan’s choreography movement, she said that, the fusion that Khan imposes on Classical Indian Dance with Contemporary and abstract movement was very intriguing and unique to the dancers. Khan is open to work with dancers who belong to other genres of dancing, namely Hip Hop, African, singers and many more. She further stated that, she was quite amazed looking at the extent of capability with which Khan manages to distort his classical form with the infusion of Kathak and collaboration with each other. It helps him to explore the different possibilities of dance forms.

Then the dancers were asked about the implication of the components as an extension in Contemporary dance. Their reply highlighted on the creation of awareness. On the other hand, he stated that, the components of Abhinaya and Rasa helps in the articulation of space and body, which appears to be quite intriguing as well as interesting to the performer, choreographer. One of the basic instances of principles of kathak includes fast head movement, articulation of the wrist and fingers and many more. Furthermore, the components of abhinaya and rasa play an important role in the implementation of better performance and betterment of dance forms. 

The dancers were then asked about their tenure at the Akram Khan Company. She stated that,

Sade performed in 4 productions under Khan. On the other hand, Kristina performed in 3 productions under Akram Khan and she did a year of research and development. Kristina went on to express her experience at the Akram Khan Company, where she emphasized on her gain of knowledge about different forms of dance,that are being propagated by Akram Khan in his institution. She also mentioned her presence in the “Kaash” project promulgated her gratitude towards the institute for being a part of the auspicious event. 

Then I asked this question to both Sade and Kristina, and they replied saying that they feel blessed to have been a part of learning kathak. They had the desire of learning kathak, which finally came true after their entry into the institution, by Akram Khan. They also propagated the fact that, Khan is one of the most humble person to teach them Kathak and both of them were satisfied with their dancing skills. 

My last question was as an Indian classical trained dancer how Abhinaya and Rasa influence their work but they could not answer the question because they are not familiar with the concepts of Abinaya and Rasa as I mentioned earlier.

Chapter 4 : Case study : Kaash


Kaash was premiered in 2002 and it was his first full length work which is a collaborative effort with artists like Nitin Sawhney and Anish Kapoor. I felt that through Kaash Khan found new ways to push dance into new realms of metaphysics and metaphor. Kaash which is etymologically a Hindi word means “if”. Khan stepped out to choreograph Kaash inspired by the myths of Shiva regarding the creation and destruction of a ‘multiverse; in an alternative world.

Pushing dance into the realms of metaphor and metaphysics

(Image: pushing dance into the realms of metaphor and metaphysics

Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

in accordance with the theme Khan and his composer Nitin Sawhney recreated parts of the 2002 work and presented it in a new form to the 2016 dancers. In this version the fiery emotiveness along with the apocalyptic mystery which was found in the earlier composition has been intensified. From the very beginning of the performance the drama can be felt by the audience when a lone man staring into the abysmal darkness is absolved in the cacophonous red eruption of the cohort of dancers who are remorselessly scything across the grounds. 

(Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

the arm movements of the dancers in this particular time is worth mentioning as the whole ambience of the stage is intensified by the huge and jagged drags of the arms. The work encapsulates the beautiful violence of imagination and the lure of death in the thrilling opening moments of the performance. The complete 55 minutes long performance does not lose its initial alluring effect.

Histogram of data$HTL

(Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

Perhaps, the complete performance can be considered as an imagery and central to it is Anish Kapoor’s mesmerising backcloth. The floor has been designed as a blood red carpet or like a jasmine yellow quilt that successfully transmutes the wheeling dancers into celestial bouncing on air.

(Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

The five dancers on the stage are used to conjure up through their suggestive formations. Each of the dancers is felt to be portraying a particular dynamic relationship with rest of the four or often through their movements, it seemed as if one dancer is opposed by the rest of the four. Sawhney’s score has been complementing Khan’s choreography through its indigenous synthesis of tradition and modernity. This combination of tradition and modernity is found in the booming percussion with Kathak bols (writingaboutdance.com, 2017). Kaash portrays the Hindu myth of creation, destruction and theoretical physics through the thick footnoted of the dancers. When the first dancer comes on stage and stands blank for the first five minutes, it invites the audience to ponder over the dancer’s contemplation regarding what the painting represents. The back backdrop surrounded by the grey aura reminds the audience of the color field paintings. At the course of the performance the performance often seem to change the dimension. The other four dancers appear to the propulsive score of Nitin Sawhney and they burst into a fierce dance of arm slashing and cutting the air through the swift hand movements and their legs lunging sideways ( www.ft.com, 2017). The hand movements prominently reflect the mudras of Kathak dance but on the contrary the lightening fast changes of level and swoops to the floor are closer to the contemporary lexicon.

mudras of Kathak

Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017

The initial breathless and frantic dancing of twenty minutes dissolves gradually into a slower and meditative solo. Then the dancer is drawn into a duet with a female dancer who through her body movements represents a possessed self and both of the dancers dance as equals or counterparts of each other. Then the group passages continue their performance in a ritualistic manner with precise and quick movements which is accompanied by long linear phrases along with the moments of stillness. The absence of much aerial movements or partnering emphasizes on the groundedness and the fast change of direction and focus ( www.ft.com, 2017).

Aerial Movements in the dance form

(Source:  www.theguardian.com , 2017)

Kaash can be seen as a ritual, which tributes the cycle of life that flows in creation, preservation and destruction. The performance reflects on the cosmology through the mysterious narrative that indicates towards the beginning of a new. His embodiment of the eclectic movement language is evident in the representation of Kaash where the use of mudras along with the meticulous usage of angabhinaya is prominent in the answers ( www.theguardian.com, 2017).


Abhinaya and Rasa dance form

(Source: Minns, http://writingaboutdance.com, 2017)

Abhinaya and Rasa plays an important role in the implementation of varied dance skills. Furthermore, it can also be propagated that, Akram Khan eminently implements the aspects of Abhinaya and Rasa in his dance styles in order to create awareness and convenience among the spectators.

Based on the predominant objectives of research work, it has been found that there are three major objectives of research, which helps in the eventual evaluation of the dissertation work. On the other hand, it has also been found that since the data analysis method has been done with the help of qualitative data analysis. The interview method was essentially semi- structured and the interview was conducted via email. Therefore, after the data analysis provided in the previous chapter, linking with the objective is essential element for the further evaluation of the work. This, the linking with the objectives are as follows:

Linking with objective 1: To explore the dynamics of fusion dancing on respect to the systematic dominance of the aesthetic components of Indian Classical Dancing

The first research objective was to explore the dynamics of fusion, which implies on the dancing skills with respect to the systematic dominance of the Indian Classical dancing. The aesthetic components associated with the fusion of Indian classical dancing was another objective under the first objective. After conducting the qualitative data analysis, it has been found that, the questions 2, 4 and 5 are closely related with the first research objective and it successfully meets up with the first objective of research. In order to understand the dynamics of fusion dancing with respect to the systematic dominance, it is important to acquire an extensive knowledge about the changing process that takes place in Khan’s dance styles.

Linking with objective 2: To identify Akram Khan’s use of ‘Abhinaya’ and ‘Rasa’ in his diverse modern dance style

The second research objective explores the application of Abhinaya and Rasa in his modern dance style. Therefore, after the qualitative data analysis, it has been found that, the questions 1, 3 and 9 are linked with the second research objectives. In order to understand the implications of Abhinaya and Rasa,  It is important to note the implementation process that takes place in the dance style of Akram. For Akram Khan, abhinay and Rasa are not mere elements of skills, but they play an important role i98n formulating the skills that a performer possess while they perform on stage. 

Linking with objective 3: To explore the ‘double consciousness’ in Akram Khan’s dance dynamics

The third objective of research explores the concept of double consciousness in Akram Khan’s dynamics in his dance forms. After conducting the qualitative data analysis,. It has been found that, questions 8, 7 and 6 are closely linked with the third objective. On the other hand, it is al.,so important to note that, in order to understand the dynamics that are used by Akram Khan in the implementation of modern techniques of dance must be evaluated by the way he imposes Abhinaya and Rasa in his dancing styles. 

Use of abhinaya and Rasa in his work can be naturally evident through the expressions of the dancers of his company if they can imbibe the  cultural awareness and identity that they are expressing through their performance. It can be recommended that theoretical knowledge of the dance forms and styles that they are performing can help in the natural portrayal of their actions and physical movements. In order to achieve the natural “kala” or art along with practice it is necessary to imbibe the multicultural elements that can be possible with the knowledge of different cultural aspects which is also functional in blurring the boundaries of nations.