British-Bangladeshi dancer-choreographer Akram Khan,who is currently touring India,says that his years of growing up in a multicultural milieu shaped his art.
Brought up by liberal parents in Wimbledons multicultural neighbourhood,Akram Khan was exposed to Kathak as much as he was to Michael Jackson. This opened up his mind from a very young age,forming the basis of his art. I had Nigerian,Saudi Arabian,Indian and Chinese neighbours,and we used to go to school together, he says. It wont be wrong to associate his style of dance to this multicultural upbringing. Khans dance performances,after all,consistently embrace newer forms,while staying rooted to Kathak. I have naturally imbibed that spirit,that of being open to everything around me, he says.
That perhaps explains his varied list of collaborators over the years from theatre and film director Peter Brook (he was a part of both the stage production and television series of Brooks epic The Mahabharata) to pop star Kylie Minogue,sculptor Anish Kapoor to actor Juliette Binoche and very recently,Danny Boyle,for the London Olympics 2012.
The best way of collaborating is with people who do not do what you do,and that takes both the parties to a place they have never been before, says Khan,who is performing at St Andrews Auditorium,Bandra,today as part of the opening act of British Councils Impulse a season of UK contemporary dance. Other cities that are part of his India tour include Chennai,Bengaluru,Hyderabad,Delhi and Kolkata.
Khan is touring India to present his production Gnosis,a dance-theatre performance that draws from the Gandhari-Duryodhana relationship from the Mahabharata. In Mahabharata,its mostly the male characters who are celebrated; I found the female characters can be celebrated far more and I decided to focus on it, says the performer,who in his latest piece,Desh,revisits his Bangladeshi roots.
To Khan,as the world becomes more complex,human emotions need a constantly evolving language to express. And to him,his body movements allow him to say what words fail to. There isnt just one bottom line to everything; there are layers and complexities which spoken words cant contain. Human body movements are much more visceral and a direct communication to the audiences senses, he explains.
His productions straddle the worlds of theatre and contemporary dance,and for both,Khan borrows a lot from cinema. I am fascinated with the scope cinema offers; you can unravel a story in countless ways. I certainly try to look at my dance from that point of view, he says.
It is no surprise that Khans next project is that of choreographing Freida Pinto in a film called Desert Dancer,a film by British director Richard Raymond.
One recurrent theme of Khans work is spirituality,something that he has been striving for since his early days. The sense of spirituality had completely disappeared from the West and that sort of set me up to investigate for it,all the time; this comes across in my works too, he says.