Yerma (4 stars)

This article is from 2015


Powerful, poignant kathak dance take on a Spanish classic  

Set in rural patriarchal Spain, Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1934 play Yerma is about the tragic consequences of being a woman locked in a childless marriage. The classical Indian dancer-choreographer Amina Khayyam has universalised the source material to take on board female oppression in a broader sense. The result is sharply stylised, exceptionally economical and relevant dance-theatre with the petite, big-eyed Khayyam herself fragile and fierce in the title role.

This impressive piece is presented as a moody, fine-cut ritual graced with a pulse-quickening live score. Three musicians – plaintive vocalist Lucy Rahman, cellist Alastair Morgan and the superb tabla player Debasish Mukherjee – are positioned behind a scrim. The main stage space is an austere arena in which Yerma’s destiny is played out.

The dancers Lucy Teed and Jane Chan, their faces painted half white and half brown, neatly embody male and female subsidiary characters comprising the social order into which the increasingly desperate Yerma does not fit. All of kathak’s hallmarks – whirlwind spins punctuated by little jumps, twists of the torso, stamping feet, eloquent gestures and facial expression – are present and accounted for, but put to the service of subtle yet strong storytelling without a trace of sentimentality. Dramatically alert, thematically rich and ultimately moving.

New Town Theatre, 220 0143. Until 30 Aug (not 11, 18, 25), 2pm, £10 (£8).


  • 4 stars

Amina Khayyam Dance Co The anguishing and compelling story of Yerma, a woman suffering the social torment of a childless marriage, that forces her to commit a horrific and irrevocable act, is interpreted to neo-classical Kathak dance and performed to spectacular live music with tabla, cello and vocals. Originally set in…