Review: A dazzling and baffling experience with Aisha and Abhaya in Northampton

Lily Canter reviews Rambert – Aisha And Abhaya at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton

By Peter Ormerod
Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 9:20 am
Intense and mesmerising: Rambert dancers in Aisha and Abhaya © 2020, ROH and Rambert. Photo: Foteini Christofilopoulou
Intense and mesmerising: Rambert dancers in Aisha and Abhaya © 2020, ROH and Rambert. Photo: Foteini Christofilopoulou

“I had no idea what was going on, but it was amazing.” This remark echoed ubiquitously around the Royal & Derngate following the dazzling, exhilarating and baffling performance of Aisha and Abhaya.

The intense, mesmerising blend of dance, film, sound and music is a startlingly unique co-production between Rambert and The Royal Ballet in conjunction with BBC Films and Robin Saunders.

The production begins with the sound of crashing waves before a beguiling, atmospheric film, directed by Kibwe Tavares literally fills the stage.

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Captivating: Rambert dancers in Aisha and Abhaya © 2020, ROH and Rambert. Photo: Foteini Christofilopoulou

We follow the journey of young sisters Aisha and Abhaya as they are washed up on foreign shores seeking refuge from a violent homeland.

Brimming with magic realism, their odyssey encompasses a fireside ritual, Blade Runner-style cityscapes and an augmented reality Spirit.

The alluring visuals are all the more fixating as they rhythmically align with the original soundtrack of driving techno music by Ori Lichtik and GAIKA.

Emerging from the dark corridors illuminated on the screen is a troupe of seven pulsating Rambert dancers. Like a family of contorted insects they gyrate, throb and vibrate in a feat of physical mastery.

These glistening figures are simultaneously the same, whilst also subtly different, as they portray a unit of travellers constantly moving without respite.

The abstract movement is more performance art than dance, and as such is perhaps widely open to interpretation. But there appear to be representations of despair, violence and courtship underpinned by spirituality.

For 60 minutes the captivating performance is all-encompassing with the vibrations of the music, together with the palpitating dancers, hypnotising the audience in a sensory trance.

An experience quite unlike any other.

* Visit Rambert – Aisha And Abhaya ran at the Royal & Derngate on January 18 and 19. Visit royalandderngate.co.uk for details of more shows at the venue and see rambert.org.uk/whats-on/aisha-and-abhaya-2022-tour for more information about the performance.