Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Man meets man… discovering happiness he has never known before; but he has a wife and family at home. A dance piece choreographed from a south Asian feminist perspective, developed from AKDC’s programme of workshops with women’s community groups. The women shared their real-life experiences of a marriage where their partner could not express his sexuality for fear of bringing shame to the family. This experience was developed with two LGBTQ+ performers from their imagining of his perspective. You and Me is a highly energetic piece bringing the spectacle and intensity of Kathak with physicality.
In this dance piece two men discover an attraction that is not allowed in their culture. First, one of them is married but second, if this taboo is revealed it will bring shame on their families. Written and choreographed by Amina Khayyam and presented by the Amina Khayyam Dance Company, dancers Shyam Dattani and Giacomo Pini play the two characters.
Khayyam’s choreography is a compelling merge of South Asian Kathak dance and contemporary dance, which is relatable and visceral. It seems that the two characters lead different lives and one clearly has a home – poignantly expressed by a chair slowly carried on his back as if both precious and suggesting a burden. The internal pain of this character is expressed in a long solo Kathak dance through a mix of contemporary style including wearing a t-shirt and jeans but with traditional Kathak bells around his ankles.
The other character sits at a chair in the shadows in his yellow shirt and crimson tie with subtle movement of head and shoulders as he too realises he is not happy and that there is more to life. He does a fascinating contemporary solo that is fluid with strident expressive moments.
A joyous duet that is contemporary yet with flourishes of arm, flat hands and wrist flicking movement of Kathak dance is sensitive and a wonderful melding of two dance styles into an exciting expressive and dynamic movement language.
Three unseen musicians – play the music live, composed by Jonathan Mayer. The score is truly beautiful. There is a range from melodic, pensive to twangy speed and sustained flow of the music, played by musicians Debasish Mukherjee (table), Iain McHugh (cello) and Alec Cooper (sitar). The combination of these instruments is achingly poignant and adds so much to the atmosphere together with the dancers who all drive the story forward.
The interactions of the two characters really come from within with a push-pull development of the story. Although there is joy, it is not a natural choice for these characters and there are conflicts. Dattani and Pini are believable in the stages of this relationship and are required to dig deep emotionally for this piece and are successful with the right balance of theatricality.
The Amina Khayyam Dance Company “develops works in collaboration with those who are culturally least engaged, economically challenged and societally disenfranchised – with a focus on the marginalised female voice.” The story for You and Me came out of Khayyam’s outreach workshops for women’s groups where a participant shared that her husband was gay but could not express his sexuality freely for fear of shame on their family, therefore, he felt guilt about his situation. Khayyam expresses her work through Kathak “as the core narrative” in the communities of Luton, Slough, Woking, East London and Birmingham.
You and Me is a heartfelt vibrant dance piece that is impactful in meaning and sensitively expressed through the choreography, music and performances.