Family Theatre Blogger: Chotto Desh: Show Review
A father’s expectations for his son can cause friction, and lead to dramatic shifts in a son’s sense of identity and his direction in life. Akram Khan’s Chotto Desh, which means “small homeland,” explores that conflict through a unique blend of storytelling, myth, visual design and contemporary dance.
My daughter and I had the opportunity to view this one-hour autobiographical production, choreographed and written by Khan, on its first weekend at the New Victory Theater. Featuring a solo male dancer, evocative visual design and an original score, the production draws on Khan’s younger experiences and memories, from Bangladesh to Britain, as he struggles with cultural identity, a complex relationship with his father and the desire to dance.
Chotto Desh’s story is poignant and funny, as well as universal in our diverse contemporary society, but its originality lies in the manner in which that story is portrayed. It employs enchanting animations, visual projections and large, playful props by designer and Oscar winner Tim Yip (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Memorable visuals include a sailboat which the dancer navigates, as well as a large tree which the dancer appears to climb, and a beehive in the forest, from which the dancer extracts the buzzing insects, much to the anger of the god of the forest.
Not only the visuals but also the sound elements are particularly effective, such as the inclusion of sounds from the city streets, and the addition of Khan’s father’s voice scolding him because he can’t sit still, and Khan’s parents arguing in English and in their native language about their son’s behavior and future prospects.
However, some of the solo dances are a bit long, and do not hold the viewer’s attention as forcefully. My daughter, who is a younger elementary school student, was nodding off a bit in those places. The fluid dancing and exotic background music make for a lyrical, but sometimes soporific quality.
Part of this may have to do with the target age for the production. Chotto Desh is Akram Khan’s first piece for children and families, and was adapted from Khan’s full length production DESH ( which won the 2014 Bessie Award for outstanding production and the 2012 Olivier Award for best new dance production). Director Sue Buckmaster certainly cut down on the length of the original production, and focuses on some of Khan’s earlier experiences to make it more accessible to a younger audience.
The Victory Theater recommends the show for children ages 7 and up, but even with the adaption, I think the piece is more suited for children in upper elementary through high school because the themes of identity, belonging, and cross-generational and cross-cultural family conflict are more relevant and accessible to this group.
Akram Khan is one of Britain’s most celebrated choreographers and a recipient of the International Society for the Performing Arts Distinguished Artist Award, the Fred and Adele Astaire Award, the Herald Archangel Award (Edinburgh International Festival), the South Bank Sky Arts Award and six Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards. Under Khan’s guidance, the innovative Akram Khan Company, founded in August 2000 by Khan and producer Farooq Chaudhry, creates works that range from kathak and modern solos to artist collaborations and ensemble productions. At the request of film director Danny Boyle, the company performed a piece, choreographed by Khan, during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
You can catch Chotto Desh at the New Victory Theater (209 West 42nd Street) on Friday, November 11 at 7 p.m., Saturday, November 12 at 2 p.m. or 7 p.m., and Sunday, November 13 at 12 p.m. or 5 p.m. Tickets for Chotto Desh are $10, $13, $18 or $25 for Members based on seat locations, with full price tickets starting at $16. Tickets are available online (NewVictory.org) and by telephone (646.223.3010). The New Victory Theater box office is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12pm-7pm. Theatergoers who buy tickets for three or more New Victory shows qualify for free Membership benefits, including discount ticket prices, free exchanges and access to a first-look purchase period for newly added performances.
The New Victory Theater brings kids to the arts and the arts to kids as New York City’s premier theater devoted to the highest quality performing arts for kids and families. It presents theater, dance, circus, opera and music from around the world at affordable prices.
Originally published on Motherhood Later Sooner.