Celebrating Dance Magazine Award Honoree Akram Khan
Akram Khan shows us what it means to be a global citizen of dance. Growing up in London in a Bangladeshi family, he studied the North Indian form kathak, and began melding it with contemporary dance almost 30 years ago. His solo works have built vivid worlds ranging from the delightfully quizzical Desh to the terrifying landscape of war in Xenos.
Driven by curiosity, he has collaborated with artists steeped in other traditions, leading to a new alchemy each time. Whether matching the furious rhythms of flamenco improviser Israel Galván in Torobaka or overhauling Giselle for English National Ballet, he has found humor in difference, as well as emotional common ground.
His boundless imagination helps fuel works of great theatrical power. For example, zero degrees, his collaboration with Belgian-Moroccan dance artist Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, is loosely based on a haunting excursion into their lives as cross-cultural artists. Critic Deborah Jowitt wrote that“It’s about deep, soul-shaking performing, in which every move seems to flow from a wellspring of feelings and experiences…. Everything is clear; everything is mysterious.”
Just as he crosses boundaries culturally, Khan crosses boundaries in terms of genre. He has choreographed for the movies (Desert Dancer), for a pop star (Kylie Minogue) and for a kung fu musical (Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise). He considers himself to be part of a new breed of crossover dance artists. “Artists like Hofesh Shechter, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, myself and Crystal Pite—we’re not afraid of other genres,” he said in these pages in 2019. “We’re already out of the box. We don’t belong only to the dance world anymore.”
More than a global citizen, Khan is a global leader. He believes that the world’s problems can only be solved by people of different cultures working together. His next work for Akram Khan Company, Jungle Book Reimagined, sees Kipling’s original story from the view of a child trapped in our climate-devastated world. As it tours Europe next spring, this new work promises to “help us listen to the natural world.” Perhaps only an artist with an international perspective could conceive such a large vision: a dance performance that honors the earth, art and children—”our future storytellers.”
Join Dance Magazine in celebrating Akram Khan at the December 6 Dance Magazine Awards ceremony. Tickets are now available here.