CONFLUENCE choreography by Akram Khan and music by Nitin Sawhney. Presented by Luminato and Sadler’s Wells at the MacMillan Theatre (80 Queen’s Park). June 16 to 18, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $31.50-$71.50. 416-368-4849. See listing
Akram Khan and Nitin Sawhney have collaborated on several high-profile shows in the last decade, but they almost never appear on the same stage together.
That's because they're from two different worlds. Khan is a dancer and choreographer who's used to being in the performing arts spotlight, while Sawhney - a composer, songwriter, DJ and master of many instruments - is often off to the side or absent, his music supporting his friend's moves.
All that's about to change with Confluence, a retrospective of excerpts from their past works that places the artists side by side along with their dancers and musicians.
"It's like a concert where we pull out numbers to perform," says Khan from London, England. "It includes our banter. We're very good friends - we've been taking the piss out of each other for years. It's a great feeling when you know someone so well you can tease them."
The two first collaborated back in 2000 on one of Khan's solos. Toronto audiences will remember their spectacular piece Kaash, a mix of classical Indian kathak and contemporary dance moves, which played here in 2003.
What makes their artistic partnership click?
"I trust him, and we have a lot of respect for each other," says Khan. "Nitin talks about music in terms of its emotion and energy. When I think of those words, I think of bodies and dance."
Khan's reputation has expanded beyond theatre and dance to the world of pop music and movies - even though he's hypercritical of the results.
A few years ago, he choreographed some numbers for a Kylie Minogue tour, appearing on a screen projection while she performed, and in 2008 he made international headlines collaborating with the Oscar-winning film star Juliette Binoche.
"I have to be honest," he says of the Minogue works. "I didn't make a great piece, but I enjoyed it and wish I'd had more time and power to change certain things. And I loved working with Kylie: she was so down-to-earth and humble, even though onstage she's like this goddess."
The Binoche collaboration, he admits, was challenging.
"We directed [the dance piece In-i] jointly and felt it didn't reach the optimum place it could have," he says. "But we needed the process to realize that, to question where and why it didn't work. I think we learned a lot about ourselves."
"That's why," he says, bringing the subject back to the current show, "I like the concept of collaboration. Two people who are very similar cannot collaborate. It takes two people who are very different to take each other somewhere new."