Zero Degrees

Zero DegreesOkay, I made a promise yesterday and today I’m breaking it. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start bleating on about another musical. No, this time I’m going to risk what little indie credibility I have left by telling you about the contemporary dance I watched last night.

Zero Degrees is a performance by dancers Akram Khan and Sidi Larbi Cherkauoi, with set design by sculptor Antony Gormley and score by Nitin Sawhney (which is how this gets onto a music blog, in case you were wondering). It’s based on an actual experience Khan had on a train in Bangladesh with a dead body and explores the transition between life and death.

The show premiered at Sadlers Wells on 8th July 2005 and it was at the same theatre last night that it was performed for the last time. Although it is often described as such, it’s very difficult to see Zero Degrees as just a dance performance. The unique styles of both Khan and Larbi are obviously the focal point, particularly Larbi’s seemingly inhuman movement in many sections, but there is vocal performance, the sparse set (just two life-sized casts of the dancers) and the haunting score, performed live with violin, cello, percussion and voice.

The spoken word sections are almost, if not equally as impressive as the dances. Performed in unison by Khan and Larbi, they have not only managed to synchronise their voices, but also their mannerisms – something that is developed and used to amazing effect as the show proceeds.

Zero Degrees is an incredibly moving work that constantly excites both visually and sonically. The 90 minute performance sped past in what seemed like less than half that time. I wanted to see it again as soon as it had finished. That isn’t going to be possible, but I’m glad I was able to see it once.

Now, watch one of these videos (or both):

1 minute compilation of clips from Zero Degrees

8 minute feature from BBC 2’s Desi DNA

Akram Khan Company website
Sadler’s Wells

Buy music by Nitin Sawhney

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