ATASH عطش contemporary dance company

According to promotional material, tarab occurs ‘when a body is gripped by music, and physical sensation is enhanced.’ It may not be vice-like, but the 40-minute version of the folk dance spectacle named after this state of being holds attention. The source of Ulduz Ahmadzadeh’s multi-patterned choreography is pre-Islamic, West Asian cultural traditions forbidden or colonially diluted. None of the textured, fringed costumes worn by her international ensemble are identical. Beginning as sober headbangers, seven dancers segue into spiralling squats, shoulder shimmies, barrel turns, hand claps, shouts of ‘Hey!’ The pace quickens, cued to Mohammad Reza Mortazavi’s rattling, galloping live percussion. Signs of pleasure increase: a vigorous step/slide/stomp/hop/kick chorus line, say, or flashy, prancing jumps and spins. There are special effects too: wind machines, a huge propeller-like prop, a dual sprinkler system raining rice. The plethora of movement, however, isn’t always fully inhabited. ATASH’s goal may have been sweaty ecstasy, but TARAB left my own emotions relatively unstirred.

Donald Hutera

In Ulduz Ahmadzadeh’s TARAB, a cast of seven deconstruct a series of traditional West Asian dances. Rocking, spinning, shuddering and howling, they blend various movement practices to create a contemporary ritual. The pumping heart of this performance is the hypnotic landscape of drumming created by instrumentalist Mohammad Reza Mortazavi, gradually edging us towards a climax.

Unable to form a company of West Asian dancers from her base in Austria, Ahmadzadeh instead works with performers from Europe and East Asia. In doing so, the power of these ancient forms is lost. The work is hampered by the timid stomps and hollow smiles of dancers who half-heartedly grasp at a form from which they ultimately seem locked-out.

Although TARAB promises to be “a door to ecstasy and enchanted sensuality,” we are left stranded. Instead the performance becomes an expression of precisely the crisis it seeks to challenge: a cultural practice unable to find its footing in a world that is hostile to its transgressive potential.

Luke Macaronas

When the dancers in TARAB loudly release the air from their lungs the sound of it becomes music. The stomping of their feet resonates with the dynamic drum rolls played live by Mohammad Reza Mortazavi. The power of the performance transfers rhythmic impulses from their frantic yet inviting bodies to ours.

The 40-minute piece has a ritualistic structure. As we enter the auditorium, the seven performers are already swinging up and down in trance-like concentration. Whether collectively, solo or in pairs, they create diverse dynamics of being and moving together. The two-plane stage – a main space and a smaller platform set among our seats – allows us to witness the dancers’ fierce sinuousness from both near and far.

For those unfamiliar with the pre-Islamic, Middle Eastern dance traditions that inspired choreographer Ulduz Ahmadzadeh, TARAB preeminently engages with people delighting in shared energies. To experience their intensity we need to open ourselves to the flow.

Zuzanna Berendt

Seven moaning, grunting bodies shake in a yellow haze, draped in tassels that slap the dance floor with every bend of the waist. At the opening of TARAB we witness their trance-like release as if trespassing on a private ritual. There are powerful passages when the group energy syncs and rises to crescendos of stomping feet and rhythmic hissed breaths. And yet the in-between moments feel, at times, monotonous.

Choreographer Ulduz Ahmadzadeh’s interest in pre-Islamic Central and West Asian histories of movement shines through. Still, a triumphal feeling is missing from the Georgian duets. Too often the performers seem scattered on the stage, their postures failing to live up to the proud defiance rooted in the steps. Mohammad Reza Mortazavi’s live percussion feels almost like another physical character; his hypnotic sound trail becomes the narrator-guide of the piece.

Eventually a sudden rain of rice grains quietens the communal ruckus. This ending has the effect – and sound – of being caught in a cleansing summer shower.

Simina Popescu