Mavin Khoo’s Parallel Passions is in part a simple reflection of his own history. Khoo trained in both ballet and classical Indian bharata natyam, the bases of this exploration of what he calls the “bilingual body”. The prologue wittily juxtaposes the rhythms of Khoo’s flat-footed bharata natyam with the pointy tattoo of ballerina Alex Newton’s toe-shoes.
The opening piece, Gemini, continues the idea of twinned styles, with a family resemblance based on geometrical line, formal precision and technical prowess. Classical Indian dancer Seeta Patel is set against ballet dancers Newton, Anthony Kurt and Benny Maslov. The androgynous Khoo elaborates sequences of steps first in one style, then the other, before splicing the two into a disjunctive hybrid of neck and shoulder isolations, beaten steps, leg extensions and hooked wrists. Obsessing in Line maps similar territory at greater length, its opening pas de deux floating between two iconic anchors, the god Shiva for bharata natyam, the swan for ballet. But these opening pieces seem like so much stylistic groundwork, lacking compositional development or choreographic purpose.
Like Madonna, this is all simulation and no soul.
Much more effective is Seeta Patel’s traditional Ashtapadi, depicting a woman’s autoerotic yearnings as she sighingly smooths her hair and caresses her arms – a familiar scene from the classical canon that’s briefly and delightfully punctured by an electronic beat, as Patel seems almost to take a fleeting drag on a cigarette. Less effective is Lovely Way to Burn, Khoo’s clubland diversion to Madonna. Like Madonna, this is all simulation and no soul.
Ending the show is a reworking of Images in Varnam. Tauter and much better than the original, here we finally move to simple display and statement, with nimble trios in addition to Khoo’s more familiar pas de deux, a real rhythmic drive to the choreography, and dramatic effect to the deployment of stylistic difference.