Khambatta Dance Company has been a prevailing force in the Seattle dance scene for many years—the group combines raw, carefully selected talent with purposeful, straight-from-the-gut choreography by director Cyrus Khambatta. With his Indian and European cultural background, Khambatta has an inimitable style that has reached wide acclaim with Pacific Northwest audiences. In 2013, City Arts Magazine noted Khambatta for his palpable and powerful work with Seattle’s celebrated Spectrum Dance Theater. Most recently, Khambatta has been creating work on his own company. This Friday, February 21, 2014, marks a rare opportunity to experience Khambatta Dance Company’s world premiere of Vice and Virtue at the Kirkland Performance Center.
Khambatta’s choreography is as unique and intensive as his approach to creating it. “Art draws out space and time so we can see in between moments and focus on something truly human, instead of being constantly slammed up against a multi-tasking world requiring a constantly multi-channeled focus and divided attention,” Khambatta explains. He creates this space and time in his warm West Seattle studio, so that his dance company of five accomplished men and women can focus on the internal process of the external portrayal of this art. Khambatta immerses himself in the rehearsal process, offering detailed movement instruction, but without forcing it. He inspires the choreography in his dancers, but employs careful communication to create it naturally. In detailed movement analysis of one of his male/female duets, Khambatta suggests that “It’s like tearing the insides out.” He teaches his dancers to have “a specific relationship of their extremities to the core of their body, and the core of their bodies to the space around them.”
KDC’s upcoming show focuses on two pieces. The first is Interview With the American Dream. In 2008—in the depth of our country’s recession—Khambatta cold-called across the country until he reached a personal reflection from each state in America. The result, combined with Julia Kent’s original musical composition and Khambatta’s movement, is chilling. Khambatta’s Interview is one of carving out space—utilizing soloists in rapid, solitary movement, and dancers entering together and moving in unison. With eloquently shaped choreography and energy the work touches on points echoed in the soundtrack like the “American dream,” “greed,” and the fear that, “if you don’t get that thing that you wanted, that thing will fall away or change.”
In the piece Vice and Virtue, Khambatta brings his dancers into an interior world, where the movement is more sinuously connected, and the emotional stakes are even higher. A world premiere work, Vice is the second of ten pieces Khambatta plans to choreograph over a ten year period that focus on the “primary elements” of the ethical and moral struggles we experience. Vice is poignant and brutally honest. A 41-minute tour de force, the intrinsic motivation of this piece is honesty in our desires and our compulsions to do good—the dancers move straight from the gut, fleshing out complex relationships and needs met and unmet. The effect is raw and heart-shaking.
As seen throughout Vice and Virtue, Khambatta’s signature style possesses a strong dichotomy. “For me, dance has two activities going on,” he says. “There is the dance itself; the movement, the technique, what actually happens physically; and on the other side, the interpretation, the body language, the way the movement lives in the body.” Khambatta maintains this evocative style of choreography and exhilarating momentum in storytelling throughout both pieces. His dancers fall seamlessly in and out of complex partnerships with fearless emotion and ferocious technical ability.
Khambatta Dance Company is approaching the end of a three-year residency at the Kirkland Performance Center (sponsored by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation), but they have several shows upcoming in the Pacific Northwest, as well as an international tour to India. In its depiction of desire as a human characteristic, Khambatta’s Vice and Virtue, is universally relatable. The force with which it rips you out of your head and pulls you back into your heart is a wholly worthwhile experience. Vice and Virtue plays for one night only, this Friday, February 21, 2014, at the Kirkland Performance Center. Tickets are available here. To learn more about Khambatta Dance Company, visit their website.