Sonia Sabri of Kathakbox - where Indian dance-meets-hip hop
- Kelly Apter
- 21 September 2011
The choreographer on shared musical and rhythmic roots
Picture the scene – you meet somebody from a different country, you can’t speak their language, they can’t speak yours, but somehow you find a way to communicate. Well that’s exactly what Sonia Sabri has been doing for the past nine years, only for her, the language is dance.
Since its formation in 2002, Sonia Sabri Company has been finding new ways to bring the worlds of Indian kathak dance and hip hop together. ‘I’m not necessarily blending kathak with another dance form,’ she says, ‘but looking at the dialogue between different dance disciplines. It’s not about fusing other genres to kathak, but finding the meeting point.’
That meeting point has involved working with musicians and dancers from a range of backgrounds. Sabri’s latest production Kathakbox features classically trained kathak dancers, a b-boy, a tabla master who uses his voice, rather than his instrument, to create rhythms – and a beatboxer. As Sabri explains, beatboxing and rap may feel like new inventions but for purveyors of the ancient kathak style, it’s old news.
‘Beatboxing has always been a key ingredient in kathak,’ she says. ‘The concept originally comes from Indian and African traditions, where dancers have to mimic the sound of the drums. And the whole idea of rap, which again is associated with hip hop, has always been used in kathak – it’s just in a different language.’
Although Kathakbox is alive with sound, surprisingly all of it is produced by the human body. ‘It was quite a challenge,’ laughs Sabri. ‘But I wanted to create music without instruments, because there is already so much there musically in kathak. Dancers have to train in beatbox and percussion in their footwork, and they all have the ability to sing, so there’s enough there to create a soundscape.’
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