Two @ OzAsia Festival, Space Theatre, Adelaide 5/11/2021

The juxtaposition of Western and Eastern artforms shapes the basis of TWO, an integrative performance between a musician and a dancer.

Kathak is one of the eight leading forms of Indian classical dance. It is steeped with rules and regulations that do not exist in Western dance, music, and theatre. These rules are considered foreign to contemporary practitioners. Creator, choreographer and dancer Raghav Handa and tabla musician Maharshi Raval join forces to entertain and educate in the Adelaide premiere of TWO.
As the audience enters the theatre, Handa is present on stage, stretching and communicating with people. This immediate breaking of the fourth wall signifies we are about to experience something distinctly unique.

The structure of TWO is very much that of a two Act performance, sans interval. Act One – the warm-up – gradually introduces the respective talents of the performers and then the performers themselves via dialogue addressed directly to the audience. While Act two – the performance – magnificently showcases the sheer talent of the players.

At face value, TWO is a show about self-indulgent egocentricity – a poster of Handa and Raval adorns the stage from mid-way through Act One as they talk about themselves and perform. In fact, Handa confirms, “TWO is a very personal work about the two of us”. However, at its core, its theme is that of a gracious challenge of tradition.

Raval, a musician and maestro tabla player of thirty-four years, is used to adhering to the conventions of segregation of space between musician and dancer that is embedded in Eastern culture. He cannot enter the arena of a dancer, and the dancer cannot touch his instrument, get changed or say certain things in front of him. On the other hand, Handa, a Western contemporary dancer, expects boundaries to be broken. In TWO, each convention is addressed in a playful yet meaningful manner.

Together with Designer Justine Shih Pearson, Dramaturg Julie-Anne Long, and Lighting Designer Karen Norris, Handa and Raval produce a heart-warming observance of conviction and partnership. They demonstrate a bridging of cultures and a celebration of friendship. Via notable physical strength, skilled musicianship, and unexpected humour, they deliver a visual and audible feast of the senses.

Handa’s solo dance atop a block and within a LED frame (constructed by Alejandro Rolandi) to Elvis Presley’s A Little Less Conversation (JXL Remix) is a notable highlight and full of whimsy. It is equally a WTF moment as it complements the overall performance. It also serves as a taste of the end product and forms part of the journey to get there.

Handa and Raval’s talent is undeniable. It supersedes every other aspect of the show and is championed, as it should be, above all else. The final musical dance performance is exquisite. With choreography endorsing the theme, we witness the striking amalgamation of two worlds. And it is exhilarating to watch.

TWO is an unexpected pleasure of the OzAsia Festival. The show program, reviews and write-ups do not do it justice. It is best experienced first-hand to understand its full scope.

OzAsia Review Anita Kertes

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