Monday, October 22, 2012

Journey through the Mystical with Vertical Road b Akram Khan Company

Review by Helene Vidovich and Martin Thomas

Vertical Road, by Akram Khan Company was a journey through the mystical. Using only a scrim and backlight, one dancer's shadow started the audience down the primordial path. What was this Whirling Dervish so frantically writhing, sending shimmers of shadow and light up and down the scrim – the Book of Life, a poem by Rumi? 
Vertical Road Photo By: Richard Haughton

Lights up, scrim down, statues/dancers frozen, one moving figure and a set of runes -- we watched as the dancers were frozen, or prayed, or waited, discovered, disagreed, failed or eventually grew.

The troupe explored or helped us search our psyches. For example: the on-again off-again relationships of the "teacher-apprentice," the "lovers," the "life of prayer and mindful intentions" or "meditation while waiting for the path to open," and the "embrace of the shadow." A path opens a moment ~ closes, and later reopens. The false starts reflect how we as humans have opportunities to grow. At times, we make bad choices, which close the door. We must go back to reflect, which can eventually, reopen the door.

The ensemble moved with such synchronicity, it appeared they were even breathing together. It reminded Martin of the funny-mirrors at the carnival where one subject appears in a variety of shapes all at once; moving fluidly about the stage. And, Helene associated their twirling segment with the Olympic synchronized swimming event or an old Busby Berkeley film. At times they would sit in prayer as a Sangha, or freeze standing like statues. Another effect used what appeared to be dust from statues that broke into real life people. This gave the illusion of the iconic becoming alive after long periods of hibernation.

The music and sounds, like the stage, were minimalistic. But, much was lost as the bass drum, and occasional other sounds, were so loud that earplugs were used which blurred some of the more subtle sonic interplay. Are the bass drum half notes really 10-20 db more important than the violin section?

Overall, Akram Khan Company was quite exciting and seemed to be telling my story. (Martin)

It was my story. (Helene)

I thought it was mine. (Martin)

As our reviewers agree to disagree it can be said that the Vertical Road was a huge success.

Helene Vidovich, Freelance Cultural Reporter
Martin Thomas, Videographer ~ Troubadour


  1. Only "In The Burgh" can we read a Great Review, with a little dispute at the end.

    This great couple was also @ Jessica Lee's Entrepreneurial Thursday @ Little E's Jazz Club.

    Helene looked fabulous and Martin performed his song "In The Burg" which was filmed by the Kauffman Foundation, a non-profit out of Kansas City. Jessica, Fred and the band also put on a Great show and were filmed too.

    Leave it to Joanne Quinn-Smith to orchestrate this Great review. Martin's song was created for Hug-A-Thon Pittsburgh.

  2. Thanks Allen for your comment, it keeps me up to date. I was down with the flu and could not make the show at Entrepreneurial Thursdays. Thanks for keeping us up to date. Not only are Martin and Helene great reviewers but also Martin is a phenomenal entertainer.