The legendary ballet dancer Margot Fontaine once said that dance communicates with people in a way that no other art form can, and it's true, dance has the ability to tap into the deepest recesses of our consciousness, both as performers and spectators. Aakash Odedra, a dancer who formerly trained in the styles of khatak and Bharatanatyam, is now causing a stir with his own distinctive style of dance, something which he has fashioned from years of studious performing and training.
Speaking to Aakash, just as he was boarding a train in Belgium, he opened up about this career so far, his thoughts about the power of dance and the essentials that go in to making a memorable performance.
For Aakash, dance is his everything "I almost wish I could un-inspire myself" he says "because dance becomes your whole life, your best friend, your lover, you essentially can't live without it. I've wanted to dance ever since I can remember; this passion has always been there, from the moment I learned to walk."
Photo by Sean Goldthorpe
Such an intense passion is fuelled by what Aakash describes as a deeper cause in life "I've always believed that there is far more to life than the monotonous 9 to 5 existence, it can't just be that we work, come home, go to sleep, and repeat that day-in-day-out. It's a process of discovery, for me dance is my vocabulary; it's a tool of expression I use to understand the world. I honestly believe that you have to be slightly loopy to go into this world of performance, because you can never plan anything, you have to really trust in something that goes beyond you. My driving force behind everything is passion and a continual search for a deeper purpose."
When Aakash is on stage, it's here where he can express and articulate himself fully, using multiple dimensions "on stage, it's a lot like life; there is a definite up and a definite down. When I'm on stage what I try and look for is ecstasy, just one moment of it, when you reach that point, the ego disappears, there is no I no pretence etc. I feel an emotion that I can't put into a bracket or into a box, just that the search for ecstasy is what I and all other dancers look for on stage. It only comes once you empty yourself of all wants and needs."
Since 2011, when he commissioned Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Russell Maliphant to create a triple of solo performances, media attention for Aakash has increased exponentially, yet such attention is something he never set out to court. "I didn't become a dance with the intention of gaining popularity or media attention etc; it was genuinely a search for understanding me. As a dancer you understand that it's important to dissociate yourself from any limelight, and that's really important because attention can be here today and gone tomorrow. The only thing that will stay with me is the thought process that goes into becoming a good dancer, so I'll let any attention cloud my judgement and sense of who I am."
Aakash is currently involved in two very personal projects, Murmur in which he collaborates with acclaimed Australian choreographer Lewis Major and dramaturge Farooq Chaudhry. Murmur explores the challenging and often misunderstood condition of dyslexia, which Aakash was diagnosed with during childhood. It mixes together all the frustration, alienation and desperate desire to understand himself, using a three-dimensional stereoscopic environment in a storm of paper, which was created by Aakash and Ars Electronica Futurelab.
The other project is Inked choreographed by Olivier Award-winning Damien Jalet, the performance relates to Aakash' grandmother, a dancer whose body was covered in tattoos as a mark of protection. Inked is about ritual and the body, which journeys through many transformations. It's an intensely evocative performance, with a score by Scott Morgan.
Murmur and Inked were performed to rave reviews at the International Dance Festival Birmingham