Samsara by Aakash Odedra Company
Samsara by Aakash Odedra Company ©

Nirvair Singh 

Samsara is the new production of Aakash Odedra Company that opened at the AsiaTopia Festival in March 2020. A choreographic and performance collaboration between Aakash Odedra (UK/India) and Hu Shenyuan (China). Samsara draws upon their personal spirituality and the vast histories, philosophies and cultures of the ancient neighbouring civilisations of China and India. 

Aakash first saw Hu on stage at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre in 2016 and was captivated by him. The pair met in Shanghai in March 2017 and have since spent many hours together in the studio. Remarkably, Hu speaks very little English and Aakash speaks no Mandarin. Yet the two have bonded through movement and are infinitely curious about what has brought them together. Hu is a practitioner of Chinese folk dance and Aakash of the classical Indian dance form kathak, contemporary dance is their common movement language. However, they recognise that their traditional forms of dance had a philosophical commonality, both are spiritual and devotional at their core.     

By sharing their spiritual beliefs and personal life circumstances, they began to explore their relationship with one another and that of their civilisations. They were inspired by the classic 16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West, the story of a monk who travelled for 18 years looking for original Buddhist scripture, knowledge, and his truth, encountering numerous difficulties on the way. Samsara traces the steps we take, both forward and backward, in search of our need for independence and our own advancement. The harsh landscape of the Himalayas, the physical landscape in which the novel is set, serves as a metaphorical landscape for the themes that Aakash and Hu are exploring. The monk’s journey itself highlights the inter-dependency between civilisations for sharing knowledge and culture is millennia old. Gautam Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism is depicted as a dark-skinned round-eyed man in India, but in China he is lighter skinned and with more oval shaped eyes. The messenger changed their appearance for the message to be accepted in new lands. 

Following the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression award-winning production #JeSuis, Aakash and Hu have worked with a stellar collaborative team: Tina Tzoka (Set Design), Yaron Abulafia (Lighting Design), Nicki Wells (Composer), and Lou Cope (Dramaturg).