Sonia Sabri Company - 'Red'
Painting The Town Red (and Green and Gold)
February 11, 2005 -- mac, Birmingham
Sonia Sabri, already solidly established as a solo Kathak artist and fusion choreographer at the age of 26, now includes two additional dancers as part of her company, creating a magical trio. Sabri’s, Genevieve Jordan’s and Amina Kayyam’s qualities complement each other whilst acting as contrasting backdrops to each other’s talents. Kayyam exudes elegance and gives occasional glimpses of an even rich inner dialogue. Jordan’s elongated limbs dart into expansive, joyful gestures and then return to quieter moments of sheer geometric simplicity. And, of course, Sonia Sabri is, well, Sonia Sabri to the core: a zeitgeist of facial and gestural expressions; a playful, cheeky pixie with a very clever plan indeed; and a diminutive tower of strength calling all of the rhythmic shots onstage whilst dancers and musicians alike are cast under her spell. It is not surprising that Germany, home of expressionist dance, has welcomed Sabri and her work with open arms.
"Red" has a striking abstract sculptural installation above the stage throughout (the Theatre Designer is Jacqueline Gunn). Exquisitely lit and arresting even before the show opens, its curving tubular form can be likened to entrails, veins, entwined circles of wedding rings, or complex molecular structures. Sabri plays on the cultural connotations of the colour red from the scientific to the psychological: danger, fire, Siva, marriage, fertility, warmth, energy, and light are all concepts that have influenced the discrete but interconnected episodes of this work. Taking no short cuts to develop each idea in turn, the dancers and musicians collaborate seamlessly, ebbing and flowing collectively. The silent and contemplative aftermath of ultimate destruction peels away to reveal an underlying mood of relief mixed with joy that manifests as carefully timed hand-clapping and elaborate foot-stamping interaction between audience and musicians, and dancers respectively.
An unusual ensemble of tabla, vocals and saxophone is rich, reveberant and commanding, yet with space for more tender moments. Vocal contributions from the dancers include a particularly emotive solo poem sung by Sabri as an introduction to her traditional bride-to-be dance (somewhat of a party piece, possibly of Siddiqui heritage) and are also as a poignant conclusion to the enacted wedding preparations.
There are sublime moments within this work, notably during the dancers’ sustained encircling of each others intertwined arms in the low-lit opening sequence, and during Alvin Davies’ improvised saxophone solo. As yet there are also a few moments in this ambitious, nascent work when the audience’s breath is held in the hope that the build-up is taking us to the place we were thinking of. But wherever we end up - happy, sad, or uncertain, Sabri will win us over with her charms and faultless lines, turns, jumps and footwork. Moods fall across her face like shadows in a high wind: she has been certain of the plan all along and we are left feeling that perhaps it was us who were fools for doubting her.
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