Performer: Akram Khan
Music arranged & performed by: David Azurza, BC Manjunath, Bobote, Christine Leboutte
Producers: Farooq Chaudhry, Chema Blanco & Cisco Casado (A Negro Productions) Costume designer: Kimie Nakano
Lighting designer: Stéphane Déjours
Sound designer: Pedro Léon

Canadian Stage
Bluma Appel Theatre
St Lawrence Centre for the Arts
27 Front St. E., Toronto
March 9-12 2016


Akram Khan was originally to perform in a production entitled Torobaka, with noted Flamenco choreographer/dancer Israel Galvan. Due to a knee injury, Galvan had to cancel. Toro is a premiere of a newly revisioned solo, in which Spanish and Indian dance rhythms are explored within one body, instead of the original interaction between Flamenco and Kathak performers.

Toro begins with a burly musician (Bobote) in a face-off with Khan that continues throughout the work. He constantly invades Khan's personal space by closely peering at his face and vocalizing loud obnoxious bellows. Both of them evoke a hunter and his ongoing friendly, then aggressive, relationship with a bull-- thus the title.

When he dances solo there is a meditative feel to Khan's dancing. When all four musicians participate, they interact with Khan like clowns who have stepped out of cultural folk tales. Their outrageous, over-the-top animated facial and gestural language is hysterical. Perhap they are reacting to a bullfight they are watching? English audiences cannot understand the language-- the show could really use subtitles. It has the feel, though, of a circus vaudeville concert.  

There is a fluidity in Khan's movements that is mesmerizing. He seamlessly flows between rapid spins, abrupt stops and falling to the floor, then rising up, his arms forcefully scissoring out. His feet and even his head are percussion instruments, pounding the floor with muscular intensity. The musicians play Spanish and Kathak dance music.  Khan's subtle shifting of his dance vocabulary to each musical alteration illustrates the similarities and differences between Flamenco and Spanish dance.

This work ends somewhat like the beginning-- only this time the setting is a circus ring. Khan and one of the musicians are each just outside the circle, to the left and right. Bobot starts to step into it. The confrontation will continue.

This is a highly enjoyable show that will I am sure become much better once it is tightened up.