Akram Khan’s
poetic alchemy

R comme reflet La règle, ici, pour que le roman s’invente : qu’un mot en reflète un autre et qu’il en brouille le contour. De billard à pillard1, le reflet trace la route.

1. Dans Comment j’ai écrit certains de mes livres, on apprend que c’est la transformation d’une première phrase, «les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du billard» en cette autre «les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du pillard», qui a produit le roman Impressions d’Afrique.

R as in reflection A ground rule for constructing the novel: each word always has to reflect another, blurring the contours. From billard to pillard,1 the mirror effect paves the way.

1. In Roussel’s How I Wrote Certain of My Books, we learn that the novel Impressions of Africa is based on the transformation of the opening phrase“les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du billard” into this other one“les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du pillard.”

The mobile circularstage in the form of a tree-trunk section, for Until the Lions.

R comme reflet La règle, ici, pour que le roman s’invente : qu’un mot en reflète un autre et qu’il en brouille le contour. De billard à pillard1, le reflet trace la route.

1. Dans Comment j’ai écrit certains de mes livres, on apprend que c’est la transformation d’une première phrase, «les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du billard» en cette autre «les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du pillard», qui a produit le roman Impressions d’Afrique.

R as in reflection A ground rule for constructing the novel: each word always has to reflect another, blurring the contours. From billard to pillard,1 the mirror effect paves the way.

1. In Roussel’s How I Wrote Certain of My Books, we learn that the novel Impressions of Africa is based on the transformation of the opening phrase“les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du billard” into this other one“les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du pillard.”

R comme reflet La règle, ici, pour que le roman s’invente : qu’un mot en reflète un autre et qu’il en brouille le contour. De billard à pillard1, le reflet trace la route.

1. Dans Comment j’ai écrit certains de mes livres, on apprend que c’est la transformation d’une première phrase, «les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du billard» en cette autre «les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du pillard», qui a produit le roman Impressions d’Afrique.

R as in reflection A ground rule for constructing the novel: each word always has to reflect another, blurring the contours. From billard to pillard,1 the mirror effect paves the way.

1. In Roussel’s How I Wrote Certain of My Books, we learn that the novel Impressions of Africa is based on the transformation of the opening phrase“les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du billard” into this other one“les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du pillard.”

Currently touring with three shows, the Anglo-Bangladeshi choreographer talks about his childhood, the inspirations behind his powerful, urgent works.

Ever since he was a small seven-year-old, Akram Khan has had kathak, a form of North Indian classical dance which he describes as organic, in his blood. Using this Sanskrit “art of storytelling,” he has been endlessly captivating his audiences. His shows are invariably packed out, which was the case last fall for his reworking of Giselle with the English National Ballet. Wherever he performs, whatever he creates, solo or with the dancers of his own company, Akram Khan triggers an avalanche of superlatives, for his fresh approach and the way he has fused this ancestral dance form with extreme modernity.

What is intriguing and so unique about this 42-year-old British choreographer, who is now one of the greats, is not so much the complexity of his new showswhich will be touring over the coming months in France and elsewhere in Europebut the alchemy of his dual culture.

His Bangladeshi parents settled in London in the early 1970s. His father opened an Indian restaurant, while his mother worked as a teacher. He was the older of two siblings. His sister, like him, was born near Wimbledon, which is where he lives with his wife, Yuko Inoue, a professional dancer, and their two children. His daughter, Sayuri, is not yet four and his son, Kenzo, will soon be celebrating his second birthday.

From math to movement

In the electric-white lobby of a hotel in Paris, he appears wearing a black beanie low over his forehead. His coal black eyes are piercing and his velvety voice is the kind you hear on late-night radio. He explains that as a kid he was sure that underneath his skin he was white, like the heroes of Marvel comics, Charlie Chaplin and Fred Astaire, his idols. He stopped looking for his whiteness when he discovered Michael Jackson. “For a child, it was unbelievable to see a black man who was a black dancer. Because of his talent and his skin, I could connect.”

The only thing that his family expected of him was that he be a math genius like his maternal grandfather. “I became obsessed because of the pressure, but I was no good at math. I was fascinated by geometry, patterns and the circle, but I realized that patterns were not enough. I wanted to tell stories with these patterns.” He ended up tracing circular movements through space with his body. His father wanted his son to take over the restaurant later on, but his mother believed in him, secretly encouraging him to follow his path. The poignant, dream-like shows Desh and his version of it for a young audience, Chotto Desh, which Akram Khan is performing at the moment, trace his childhood journey.

Forces of attraction

His poetic alchemy is derived above all from the mythological Hindu epic the Mahabharata. Until the Lions, one of his most recent creations, is based on one tale from it. “It was a return to my roots. Kathak was inspired by the Mahabharata, which my mother used to read to me in the evening. I went to sleep with these images, and its universal sentiments still inspire me.” It was also through this epic story that, aged 13, he attracted attention for his performance in Peter Brook’s Mahabharata. When the director was casting the production, Akram Khan was selected to play the role of Ekalavya, the great archer.

After touring for two years, he attended De Montfort University in Leicester, then the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds, before studying with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker at the P.A.R.T.S. in Belgium. He performed his first solo works in the early 1990s, then founded his own company with producer Farooq Chaudhry ten years later. He began working with dramaturge Ruth Little, collaborating regularly with Oscar-winning visual designer Tim Yip. Akram Khan is a magnet and his name attracts leading lights, such as sculptor Anish Kapoor, choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, dancer Sylvie Guillem, singer Kylie Minogue, actress Juliette Binoche and director Danny Boyle, for whom he choreographed a section of the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games.

He has been showered with awards and prizes, and rehearses for at least three hours a day. He prefers to practice in his mother’s kitchen than in his airy dance studio, because it helps him master precise gestures: “If you hold your hand the wrong way you’re going to break it, because there is a cupboard there.” He is launching his latest solo work in 2018. He’s planning to spend less time dancing and more time with his children and directing. Akram Khan is hard to keep up with, but worth following closely.

Agenda

CHOTTO DESH

Du 3.03.2017 au 6.05.2017, en tournée en France (Le Mans, Nanterre, Sète, Miramas, Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban, Grasse, Andrézieux-Bouthéon, Toulouse, Lieusaint) et le 18.05, Norwich Theatre Royal, Norwich.

Until The Lions

Les 3 et 4.03, Opéra de Reims.
Le 8.03, National Forum of Music, Wroclaw.
Du 17 au 25.03, La TOHU, Montréal.
Du 21 au 23.04, Les Gémeaux, Sceaux.
Les 5 et 6.05, Théâtre-Sénart, Lieusaint..

DESH

Du 31.05 au 3.06, Sadler’s Wells, Londres.

Next

The complete composer