by LAUREN CODLING
AWARD-WINNING dancer Akram Khan has spoken of his reasons behind revisiting a critically acclaimed production, as it returns to a London theatre for the first time in three years.
Directed and choreographed by Khan, Until the Lions is inspired by the Indian epic the Mahabharata.
Initially performed at London’s Roundhouse in 2016, this will mark the final time Khan will perform in the role of warrior Bheeshma. The piece follows Amba, a princess seeking revenge from the gods after she is abducted on her wedding day.
The British-Bangladeshi dancer told Eastern Eye he chose to revisit the piece as it always felt “relevant” to him.
He added that the chance to tell a story from the female perspective fascinated him, as mythology is primarily written from the male point of view.
“I always felt the Mahabharata was a very important element in terms of reflecting the human condition and relationship,” he said. “It is bizarre how relevant [the story] becomes as the world around us becomes more chaotic.”
Khan revealed he had initially studied the Mahabharata as a child while learning Indian classical dance. In 1985, when he was 13 years old, he began his artistic career by starring in an adaptation of the ancient epic.
Having started out in the industry as a teenager, Khan admitted he went through stages of feeling unsure whether he was working to represent himself or the ethnic community.
However, he soon realised his true interest was in human beings, collectively.
Claiming he would rather be known as a representative of the “voices which go unheard”, Khan believes “unbelievable” similarities run through every human being. “We all feel pain and emotions, regardless of colour or creed,” he said.
Last August, Khan revealed he would be retiring from solo dance pieces in order to spend more time with his two children, Kenzo and Sayuri. However, the 44-year-old confirmed he would still be touring for some time yet.
“My last full-length solo [Xenos] is touring until 2020,” he said. “Then I’ll start to slow down.”
The performer, who provided choreography for a section at the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony in London, admits there is a misconception that dance can be deemed as alienating.
He recalled an instance when he was taking a cab to rehearsals for the Olympic ceremony.
The taxi driver had struck up a conversation and asked Khan about his profession. When he revealed that he worked in contemporary dance, the taxi driver went quiet and Khan assumed he had lost interest.
“Then, without warning, he suddenly said, ‘I know what contemporary dance is. It is dance that you don’t understand,’” Khan said.
The driver’s response interested him, explaining there was a period in history when dance moved from so-called ‘pedestrian’ art to an industry believed to only appeal to the upper class.
Khan, however, hopes that his own work is considered universal.
“When I write my craft, I don’t just want to speak to the exclusive people,” he said. “I want to speak to everyone. I want to speak to people – what I’m interested in is speaking about the human condition.”
Until the Lions runs at The Roundhouse from Friday (11) until next Thursday (17)