Akram Khan Crosses Many Borders

Two men make a world

Whether casually looking at each other or dusting themselves off after an outburst, the men give the appearance of constantly pondering possible next moves. Dancing emerges like inner tempest. Khan and Cherkaoui move beautifully together, but really they're very different. Cherkaoui can look like a rag doll or silkily, effortlessly elegant. Khan is sturdier, and flexible in a different way; he purls movement out, then pounces on it with the compact speed of a carnivore. His fast is very fast, his slow full of pulled-out complications. In their simple T-shirts and wrap-around pants by Kei Ito, they have the look of athlete-priests performing some exculpatory rite by re-living the emotional complexities of both Khan’s travel experience and their own collaborative process.

During a vigorous dance passage near the beginning of zero degrees, master lighting designer Mikki Kunttu throws the two men's shadows on the gray scrims that enclose the stage on three sides; once, even though they're far apart, their shadows appear to hold hands. How many degrees separate friend from foe, rescue from disaster, life from death, joy from grief, you from me? Often, not even a millionth of a degree.

Having had this closeness so thrillingly demonstrated, we spectators pour out of the theater on a wave of happiness, clustering in small knots to question and marvel. Critics go to the theater, Joan Acocella once wrote, "like dogs to dinner," ever hopeful. In zero degrees, as in his Kaash (2002) and ma (2004), Khan gives us a feast.

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