Internationally-acclaimed dancer and choreographer Akram Khan shared valuable insights into his creative process with over 100 Dance students at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) today.
Co-ordinated by DMU’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Dance (CIRID) and Leicester’s Curve theatre, the talk gave students, staff and members of the public a glimpse into the career of a man who has collaborated with, among others, Danny Boyle on the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.
The DMU alumnus spoke openly about overcoming family expectations of following in his mathematician grandfather’s footsteps, to pursue his dancing dream instead.
He said: “DMU took a risk with me, especially Jayne Stevens and Michael Huxley. They have been very important teachers to me and have evoked a thinking mind in a dancer’s body in me.
“My path to choreography well and truly started here at DMU.”
Akram also spoke about his adaptation of poet Karthika Naïr’s book Until the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata, which is now showing at Curve after his residency there in July 2015.
His interpretation uses kathak and contemporary dance to tell the tale of Amba, a princess abducted on her wedding day and stripped of her honour, who invokes the gods to seek revenge.
“It was important for me to take on a feminist piece like this, especially now that I’m a father to a three-year-old daughter,” said Akram.
One of Akram’s most recent challenges was creating and directing a new version of the iconic romantic ballet Giselle for English National Ballet.
He spoke of the experience of steeping himself in the language of ballet and of the rewards of working with a 40-strong cast.
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It was also announced that Akram is now a Visiting Professor at DMU’s CIRID, giving students and research staff even more opportunities to benefit from his passion and expertise.
Akram, who has taken on DMU interns before, said: “Working with students is humbling and it reminds me of the importance of every choice you make.
“Creating is a very personal process and it’s rare that I let people outside of the company in my studio. But watching students as they are exposed to the process makes you realise how much you take for granted and you see things from their perspective.”
First year Dance students Jessica and Aiste posing with Akram
First year Dance students Aiste Garbauskaite and Jessica Smith both attended the talk.
Aiste said: “Until the Lions at Curve was amazing! The relationship between the musicians and dancers was fascinating.
“Hearing Akram speak about his work with English National Ballet was extraordinary, especially the inspiring way in which he managed to put his own stamp on it.”
Jessica said: “Akram is such an open and honest speaker. He gave us a real perspective into how his work is created.”
Akram was awarded an Honorary Doctorate for services to the arts by DMU in 2004 and he is also an Associate Artist of Curve.
Posted on Friday 4th November 2016