Review: Kaal – Time (Janak Khendry Dance Company)

Kaal, the Sanskrit word for time, combines Indian classical dance styles with modern Western ones at Toronto’s Fleck Dance Theatre

I was most excited to see Kaal when I first heard about it a few months ago. I have a background in Indian classical singing and dancing and love going to dance shows, so I figured this was right up my alley. The choreographer, Janak Khendry, is a world renowned classical dancer with a career spanning over 55 years, so I was so sure that this would be a treat. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed. 

The concept of the show itself is very interesting. It basically aims to take us through time as a whole, beginning with The Big Bang and ending in the dark ages that we are currently entering, according to the Hindu Vedic scriptures. The idea of blending all the diverse Indian dance styles with Western modern dance also seemed like a good idea to me. The problem for me, however, lied in the execution.

The show starts with a voice-over that is a little long-winded and my show partner and I turn to each other, already a little lost. The narration is followed by the opening act which is a solo performed by a very talented male dancer. We assumed that after this number the show would pick up; it really didn’t.

Most of the dance acts are solos and the ensemble pieces are a little less than perfectly coordinated. We also couldn’t help but notice that not all the dancers seemed to be of the same calibre or share the same energy level. It was their opening night performance though, so some of these elements may have been worked out.

The music is mainly Sanskrit so it’s safe to say that no one understood a word. I think the dancing is supposed to be enough to communicate the story but for some reason it fell a little flat. They did have projector screens onstage which introduced some of the dance acts by their title and I wish they would have made it more interactive by using surtitles throughout the performance.

The stage is bare, the costumes are flattering but dull, and the whole show just lacks a certain vigour that one expects from a dance show. The performance just seemed to drag on for me and with a run time of at 2 hours and 20 minutes, (with an intermission) I would say that it was way too long.

Indian dance can be so dramatic in every way, from the costumes to the expressions to the different styles that can express such a range of passion and emotion, but at no point did I feel engaged or reeled in. I do have to say that they managed to use every square inch of the stage but that too felt a little forced to me.

Maybe I didn’t enjoy this show as much as I should have because it was different from what I expected going in and I don’t want to discourage anyone from seeing it. It was just not my cup of tea, but if you like cultural and modern dance and want to see something very different from what Torontonians are normally exposed to, then this is your chance to check it out.


Kaal – Time is playing at the Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay West) till January 28, 2012
– Shows run January 26 to 28 at 8pm
– Ticket prices range from $30 to $38.50
– Tickets are available online or through the box office by calling 416-973-4000

Photo credit to David Hou