There’s an appealing simplicity to Jose Agudo’s first full-length company production. The flamenco and contemporary dancer, an associate artist for Mavin Khoo’s ZfinMalta Dance Ensemble, uses the idea of the Silk Road – the ancient conduit between east and west – to trace the links between classical Indian dance and flamenco. It’s far from an original idea – Agudo was an assistant choreographer on Torobaka, Akram Khan and Israel Galvan’s notable recent attempt to do something similar. However, Agudo’s approach is pared back, personal and tender.
Agudo enters stage left stripped to the waist, then puts on a tight-fitting black shirt to deliver a farruca choreographed for him by Rafael Amargo. This Galician cante chico is normally danced to only by men and there are plenty of assertive dramatic poses and authoritative stamps, but Agudo’s arms and filigrana have a beguiling feminine delicacy.
His live accompaniment is exceptional: Giuliano Modarelli’s undulating guitar and Bernhard Schimpelsberger’s complex tabla-technique percussion carry Agudo beautifully, as he winds his taconeo around the compas. Then the music starts moving eastwards, Schimpelsberger using a range of bell sculptures and firing off the distinctive Indian rhythmic vocalisation (“takadataka”) as Agudo, now dressed in white, fastens his ghungrus to his ankles.
His kathak piece, choreographed by Nahid Siddiqui, is full of joy; Agudo brings a pleasing precision to the piece, and the arms, as in the flamenco, are arresting in their sinuous elegance. You can feel his pleasure, and occasional hesitancy, as he explores this very different art form.
The last section weaves everything together. In a duet with Khoo, called Full Circle, Agudo draws on his contemporary training to trace a delicate narrative line. The pair start off cross-legged on the floor, using strong gestural language, suggesting ritual, ceremony, and silk weaving. As the piece gathers pace, propulsive armwork pushes the pair around the stage, with Khoo leading Agudo, then Agudo leading Khoo into more syncopated, flamenco influenced moves as the musical accompaniment shifts westwards again and the added soundscape also suggests a shifting landscape. There are hints at cycles of life and death, as Agudo and Khoo increasingly draw strength from each other – some of this section reminded me quite strongly of Kick the Bucket, Khoo’s ZfinMalta duet with Iván Pérez, performed here in February. As a whole, Silk Road is a compact, coherent and convincing piece, that shows off the range of Agudo’s strengths very satisfyingly.