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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 10 MARCH 2014 iTMOi, Akram Khan’s latest venture, created for the hundredth anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, is exactly what the title suggests. The Anglo-Indian choreographer has imagined what he believed to be inside the Russian composer’s mind at the time he wrote his legendary Rite of Spring, the result being an extremely violent, disjointed choreography.

The work begins on an incense darkened stage, where a gabbling, grotesque creature comes looming up from the depths of time. A bell is tolling solemnly, and there is a growing crescendo of raucous noises, becoming barely supportable. It’s scary to say the least, and if Khan’s intention was to recreate the effect that Stravinsky’s Sacre had on audiences in 1913, then he has succeeded.

Akram Khan Dance Company in iTMOi (in the mind of Igor)
Choreography: Akram Khan

It’s a piece for a dozen interpreters including a curious bare-chested woman in a white crinoline, a young girl possibly intended to be the sacrifice, and a horned creature reminiscent of Nijinsky’s faun, from his Afternoon of a Faun, a ballet created the year before Stravinsky’s Sacre. All the interpreters, victims as well as survivors, seemed depraved and tormented.

Akram Khan Dance Company in iTMOi (in the mind of igor)
Choreography: Akram Khan

Stravinsky’s score was, and is, an intensely brutal piece of music, and in the score put together by Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook, and Ben Frost, snatches of folk songs alternate with electronic music, electric guitar and classical instruments interspersed by spine-chilling screechings of sound and abrupt moments of silence. The music is constantly on the move; it begins peacefully and dance takes off for all of thirty seconds before something else arrives and the evil is there. It’s unsettling, disturbing and Khan’s fast, rhythmic, muscular choreography, with its swirling acrobatic movements echoes the frenzy of the score.

The choreographer admitted that he had had to delve inside himself to reveal his own tortuous depths and interior chaos. The instant after a movement starts, it is inexplicably destroyed; one sees the way out, but then the door closes. But although the score, which dictates the choreography, is so remote from that of Stravinsky, Khan remains close to Stravinsky’s intentions, and strains of the Russian’s music can be faintly heard near the end of the work.

Akram Khan Dance Company in iTMOi (in the mind of igor)
Choreography: Akram Khan

This brilliant but imperfect piece with its attractive décor and costumes, which was probably not what the audience expected or hoped to see, left a bewildered public shell-shocked. One was assaulted on all sides, by the music which was deafening, by the incense which attacked one’s eyes and stuck in one’s throat as well as by the action on stage which drained one of emotion. Indeed, the spectators lost the security and protection of being in their seats, but were thrown on stage as witnesses, almost becoming a part of the whole savage ritual. iTMOi is not to be recommended for the faint-hearted, least of all those accustomed to the charm, poetry and harmony inherent in Akram Khan’s previous works.

Headline image: Akram Khan Dance Company in iTMOi (in the mind of igor)
Choreography: Akram Khan

Patricia Boccadoro is dance editor at

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