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Choreographer | Akram Khan

ma’s sumptuous austerity, its paradoxical way of accelerating heart rates only to still the action to the point of contemplation are right on target.” (Le Monde, France)

“Khan has an electrifying stage presence. [...His] arms carve the space around him with a fluid, calligraphic grace.” (The Sunday Telegraph, Great Britain)

“The piece […] blends theatre and dance. It introduces the mridangam, a South Indian drum, to the cello. It combines the vocals of Pakistani singer Faheem Mazhar with electronic beeps from the Brussels-based Ictus Ensemble. And most importantly, Mr. Khan gives a 500-year-old Indian dance tradition a contemporary flair. But if anyone could merge such drastically different elements, it’s Mr. Khan, who is one of the few dance-fusion artists to have achieved global acclaim.” (The Asian Wall Street Journal, Singapore)

Danse Danse welcomes the Akram Khan Company for its Canadian premiere. Prodigy of the new generation of choreographers and an exceptional dancer, Akram Khan will be here to present ma, a gorgeous production in which he shares the stage with six dancers, a cellist, a percussionist (mridanga) and vocalist Faheem Mazhar, whose “inflections give you goose bumps” (Libération, France). To create the most ambitious show in his company’s short history, Khan teamed up with performers from Finland, Italy, Pakistan, Slovakia, South Africa and Spain. ma, the resulting fusion of cultures, disciplines and eras, won the South Bank Show Award in London in 2004.

ma, a choreography that premiered in Singapore in 2004 and has since been performed throughout Europe, in Australia, Scandinavia and South Africa, is loosely inspired by Arundhati Roy’s essays on the forced eviction of farmers in India and on a tale about motherhood, and incorporates narrative by novelist and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (Stephen Fear’s My Beautiful Laundrette, Patrice Chéreau’s Intimacy). “The result was a holistic piece of movement, music and theatre – which was at once powerful and whimsical, ethereal and grounded, hypnotic and engaging” (The Business Times, Singapore).

Akram Khan
Prodigy of the new generation of choreographers, the Brit of Bangladeshi descent Akram Khan defies categorization. Influenced as much by his South Asian roots as by Western art and the urban melting pot, his work is characterized, according to Asian Art magazine by “its alternating raw sexuality, lyrical, organic fluidity, jerkiness and tremendous energy.”

After training in contemporary dance and in kathak, “an ancient Indo-Persian dance that blends very fast pirouettes with Indian statue poses, mythology with Hindustani music” (Le Devoir, Canada), Akram Khan first made his mark as a soloist. As a teenager, he performed all around the world with Pandit Ravi Shankar in The Jungle Book as well as Peter Brook’s staging of the Mahabharata. While studying at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, he worked with Jonathan Burrows, then went on to win a coveted place in the X-Group at P.A.R.T.S., Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Brussels-based school. The time he spent at that famous Belgian institution was a turning point in his career. It was there that he created Loose in Flight, a solo work that drew attention from British and international producers, and Rush (July 2000), his first group piece and the one that truly launched his career as a choreographer.

“His insistence on working the body every which way [dancing upside-down, backwards, slow-motion/fast-forward, etc.] places Akram Khan squarely among those whose main focus is body language.” (Libération, France)

“There is a phenomenon on the dance scene and his name is Akram Khan. […] There is something special about Akram Khan and everybody recognises it. He has extraordinary contradictory qualities. He is classical and modern, earthy and mystical, sensuous and masculine, fluid and muscular and he embodies these dramatic opposites without any tensions.” (London Evening Standard, Great Britain)

In London in 1999, he founded the Akram Khan Company with Farooq Chaudhry, who is now the company’s producer. While with the company, he has created Polaroid Feet and Ronin, two kathak solo works, Related Rocks, a collaboration with the London Sinfonietta, and Kaash, a work created with sculptor Anish Kapoor and musician Nitin Sawnhey. This is Akram Khan’s second visit to Montréal after his 2003 Québec premiere as part of the Événement Vooruit with his solos program, Sounds of Archery.

Winner of several choreography awards and choreographer-in-residence at the South Bank Centre, Akram Khan is now the first non-musician Associate Artist of the famous centre. He was conferred an honorary Doctorate of Arts by De Monfort University in July 2004 for his exceptional contribution to the arts community of Great Britain.

April 2005


Photos | Giannina Urmeneta Ottiker (ma), SPH - The Straits Times (ma), Colin Hattersley (ma) | Amyandtanveer (Akram Khan