Jungle Book reimagined–Akram Khan Company (GB) (Jul 23, 2022)
photo from official website.
This is an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s book from 1894. As a well-known tale, Akram Khan re-imagined it as an apocalypse in the future due to climate change. Mowgli, the main character, got into the jungle by accident because of the flooding happening in the city. The negotiation between humans and nature is no longer happening in the fairy tale world but in the close future.
The dancer's body and the poetic animation are two highlights of this performance. As the British star, Akram Khan’s dance language has been knowing as in-between classical and contemporary, Western and ethnic. The dancer's body is well-trained and shifts to animal-like elegantly. The text and body echos in rhymes delicately, like part of Khan’s language in the previous works. Also, the animation is enchanting. The 3D-like animation is also eye-catching. The sensational experience has triggered the imagination from fantasy to the future of climate disaster. The transition of the work is closely tied with these videos and it is marked as part of the key narratives of the whole performance.
Indeed the visuals and text are fascinating. However, as a dance performer, I am more interested in the aesthetics of the simplicity of the stage and imagination beyond text. In this 120 minutes of performance, the text takes the lead, whereas the dancer's body are covered in shadow for a long time. I understand the necessity of narratives. Yet, the physicality and stage elements are as important as the text and animation videos. The balance should have been enhancing the key message instead of limiting the imagination since I believe imagination is part of the powerful experience in the theatre-art. Therefore, I think this is a magnificent and poetic peace with global concern. Still, in terms of composition, I miss the the stage language of Khan’s previous work, rawer human attachment, and more space for imagination.
Along with the heatwaves, when the dancers suffer from the heat and the audience seating in a grand theatre and is sweating, the alarm of global warming is getting closer than ever.