Darbar Festival solo piece marks new direction for dancer Akram Khan

Akram Khan © Laurent Ziegler
Akram Khan © Laurent Ziegler


ACCLAIMED dancer-choreographer Akram Khan MBE will perform an excerpt from his final, full-length solo piece at a classical Indian arts festival this month.

Khan, 43, will do a kathak piece from his upcoming dance production Xenos, premiering next year, on Thursday (9) as part of the Darbar Festival.

The British-Bangladeshi dancer told Eastern Eye that his retirement from full solo length pieces is due to the fatigue he feels in his body.

“My body hurts,” Khan said. “I wanted to focus more on my choreography. Working with other dancers who are in their prime; that is more exciting for me right now. I’m still going to dance, don’t get me wrong, but I’m stopping doing full-length solos.”

Khan will perform a kathak piece from his upcoming dance production Xenos

Alongside Khan, the Darbar Festival will feature an array of other talented performers from traditional and contemporary Indian dance and music.

Highlights include a performance from Carnatic traditional musicians Patri Satish Kumar; Triplicane Sekar on the tavil – the first time the south Asian percussion instrument has ever been featured in the festival – and Amrit Khanjira on the khanjira.

Khan said he is especially excited about a performance by kathak dancers Mavin Khoo and Aditi Mangaldas, as they dance alongside vocalist OS Arun and Indian sitarist Shanana Banerjee on Saturday (11).

“[Khoo and Mangaldas] are extraordinary dancers. They are real artists in their own form and it’s so exciting that they are going to be sharing that stage with some fantastic musicians. I’m really excited about it,” Khan said.

The four-day festival, which takes place at London’s Sadler’s Wells, offers audiences an insight into Indian classical music and dance, marking a first in the history of both genres in the UK.

Darbar Festival will feature an array of other talented performers from traditional and contemporary Indian dance and music © Arnhel de Serra

Khan, a Sadler’s Wells associate artist, became involved in the festival, which was founded in 2006, when he was approached by director Sandeep Virdee OBE.

“I thought ‘yes, this is an important opportunity’ and if I could lend some kind of artistic support and vision to the dance element, I would really be up for it,” he said.

The choreographer will also be talking about the exploration of dance in an event scheduled for Saturday. There will also be masterclasses by dancers Mangaldas and Khoo, who will provide insights into the Indian dance form, as well as live coaching.

Khan explained that he grew up watching “great masters” from India and abroad perform classical music and dance, but he feels there is a lack of opportunity nowadays to present classical dance at its highest level.

“As a child, I was hugely affected and inspired by the performers performing, but there is so much less of it now,” he said. “That’s why I really want to support that action of creating space. It’s an opportunity to witness these great art forms being performed by great artists.”