“Kan Ya Ma Kan” (once upon a time) there was a king called Chahrayar who was introduced to his throne. His fabulous kingdom is depicted in Caracalla’s latest show “Kan Ya Ma Kan,” directed by Ivan Caracalla, and choreographed by Alissar Caracalla.
Caracalla is a dance theatre founded by Abdel-Halim Caracalla in 1970. It created a new dance language by merging the Western and the Oriental. Among its performances are “Elissa, Queen of Carthage,” “Knights of the Moon,” and “Andalusia and the Lost Glory.”
The theatrical piece “Kan Ya Ma Kan” presented on Caracalla’s stage “Ivoire” is a lavish musical trilogy composed of three acts.
The first act is Chahrayar’s story, a classic fable from the “Thousand and One Night” saga.
With their bodies, the dancers draw emotions of love, passion, power and revenge. The spectator finds himself lost in the confusion of feelings, especially when love and revenge are mated in one scene.
The spectator can also lose himself in the multitude of dancers –around 20– onstage, each performing different moves. And the audience’s vision is constantly ignited by all shades of color.
The first performance is to the music of Chehrazade by Rimsky Korsakov. The dancers create multiple tableaux. The originally oriental epic embraces Indian, Russian, and ballroom dancing.
This act includes a commentator whose few comments on the actions are verses in the Arabic language.
The second act is free of any speech, with body language prevailing. This act opens with a chariot of fruits and legumes indicating a bazar where slave-women are also sold. The dancers/shoppers are dressed in costumes as colorful as the fruits.
The oriental allegory animated by the composition of Ravel’s Bolero is not free of the touch of magic and mystic.
The third and final act sheds light on a more recent era and a nearer place. Knights and visitors meet at the residence of the Khan to perform a folkloric dance on traditional songs and stanzas like “Mani.”
The set consists of Bedouin props, costumes and musical instruments. Water bubbles also make an appearance.
This act includes songs about Lebanon and its nature and mountains. The voices of Hoda Haddad, Joseph Azar, and Hadi Khalil accompany the Dabke and Middle-Eastern dance.
The last act is the least dramatic in costumes and actions and stresses only the traditions of our region.
Although the show speaks of a different era and old times, modern technological components take part in it with the sophisticated lighting and a screen that introduces virtual scenery of an old castle, a desert or a Lebanese mountain to complete the action onstage.
Overall, the show is highly dramatic and the illustrations performers create with their postures are mesmerizing, but the emphasis is on the costumes and scenery rather than the actual dancing. The story has loose ends and misses consistency between its different elements and sections.
The show wraps golden ages in a modern and sumptuous cloak and yet fails to fully engage the audience in epochs that had turned to dust. At some point, the theatrical display seems pretentious. Caracalla’s “Kan Ya Ma Kan” is the faultless illusionist meeting of history and art.
By Yara Nahle
LAU Tribune staff