Virtuosos Aakash Odedra and Aditi Mangaldas present a new work Mehek

A dance exploration of an unspoken love story inspired by stories of love and longing.

22 February 2024 Posted by One Dance Team


Aakash Odedra + Aditi Mangaldas' Mehek. Photo: Angela Grabowska

Mehek is a major new collaboration from two of the finest Kathak contemporary dancers on the world stage, Aakash Odedra and Aditi Mangaldas. Together they have created a powerful, raw and mesmerising duet which tells the story of a taboo relationship between an older woman and a younger man. Mehek is a physical exploration of the human heart, its desires, courage and resilience.

The title Mehek alludes to the essence of love and the enduring power of memory. The stage becomes a place where rhythmic tales of desire unfold, entwined with elements of nature. A set of mirrors by Tina Tzoka evokes the expansive waters of the sea, the tranquil surface and the tumultuous waves beneath. Composer Nicki Wells, a frequent collaborator of both Odedra and Mangaldas, has created the sound-score, sometimes epic, sometimes intimate. She sings live on stage with two Indian percussionists, Ashish Gangani and Hiren Chate and vocalist Faraz Ahmed. Ahmed has contributed to the composition of the classical music in the soundtrack.

Authenticity is at the heart of the piece. At the start of the creative process, the company worked with over 450 elders from communities across Leicester who were taking part in Mehek Live, a major learning and participation project funded by a Nationally Significant Project Grant from Arts Council England. Some of their personal stories and memories of life and love, told to Aakash Odedra, dramaturg Karthika Naïr and musician Hiren Chate, have fed into the final piece.

The wider Mehek Live project, run in partnership with Moving Together, culminates during the Elixir Festival at Sadler’s Wells on 12 April. There will be a symposium to share the outcomes of Mehek Live with speakers including Lewis Major from Aakash Odedra Company; Emily Jackson from Moving Together; Joce Giles, Artistic Director of Elixir Festival and Natasha Anderson, Head of Community Engagement at Sadlers Wells East, with more speakers to be announced. The symposium will be live-streamed and recorded for later dissemination.

At Elixir Festival, there will also be showings and screenings of two dance works created by some of the Mehek Live participants. Karthika Nair has been commissioned to write three new poems and Nicki Wells and musician Hiren Chate have composed the scores.

Mehek marks the return to the stage of Aakash Odedra following Samsara in 2022 and Aditi Mangaldas following her solo FORBIDDEN in 2023. Mehek is the first full length duet of Mangaldas’ illustrious 50-year career and comes close on the heels of FORBIDDEN which is scheduled to tour Europe this summer. It is Aakash Odedra Company’s first major production since Samsara which has been touring the world since its creation.