Juliette Binoche and Akram Khan in In-I
(© Tristram Kenton)
Juliette Binoche and Akram Khan in In-I
(© Tristram Kenton)
One thing is for sure after watching In-I, now wrapping up an international tour with a limited run at BAM's Harvey Theatre: Juliette Binoche is a wonderful dancer. She moves with conviction and precision, and demonstrates a flexibility and connection to her body -- one that may come as a surprise considering the Oscar-winning actress has never before danced professionally -- even if she does not have the easy grace or quick and lithe motion of her co-star, the acclaimed choreographer and performer Akram Khan.

In-I, the pair's first collaboration, is consistently engaging due to both performers' energetic and physically demanding work. The piece is structured as a series of vignettes and pas de deux about male-female relationships. Although there are certain elements that help to tie one narrative thread of the performance to another -- such as the name "Sarah" which is alluded to in one sequence and then explained much later -- it's not all that clear that the two creators/performers play the same characters all the way through the 70-minute performance.

The show begins with a reminiscence, narrated by Binoche in voice-over, about a 14-year-old girl's obsession with a man she spies in a movie theater. The work's musical underscoring (composed by Philip Sheppard) then builds in intensity as Binoche literally chases Khan around the stage, crescendos into pounding rhythms as the pair begin to make physical contact, and then settles into a softer pattern as the two work closer together, suggesting a more amicable and even loving relationship from what immediately preceded.

The next sequence, however, is about a couple who seems to have been cohabitating for some time. Whimsical and mostly mimed, it focuses on everyday actions, centering around a window, a chair, and most importantly, a toilet seat. Throughout much of In-I, what's emphasized is the conflict between the man and the woman onstage, with reconciliation sometimes achieved and sometimes not.

Each performer also delivers a monologue, directly to the audience. Khan's is the more interesting, addressing interracial relationships and religious upbringing, while Binoche's is a more standard tale of petty jealousy. However, the staging of this particular speech is quite amusing, as it involves her being literally pinned to the wall in an ingenious manner.

While In-I does not convey any grand insights about the interrelationship between men and women, it nevertheless succeeds as a meditation on the subject, and is brought boldly to life by its creators.