‘I’m fighting time’: Akram Khan on his last full solo, Xenos in pictures

In his new show, Akram Khan will give his final performances as a dancer in a full-length piece. He explains how he merged the Prometheus myth with the tale of a shell-shocked colonial soldier

Theres an African proverb that goes like this: until the lions have their say, the hunters will always tell the story. It is the victors who write history. But as the west has mostly written history, some stories have gone untold: like the millions of colonial soldiers who fought for Britain in the first world war.

Rehearsals

Xenos is the story of an Indian colonial soldier. It started off with the idea of Prometheus, who created mankind out of clay and mud.

Rehearsals

Rehearsals

Prometheus had the foresight to know that humans are doomed to destroy themselves and yet he still had hope in them. He stole fire to better humankind. I wanted to make the Promethean myth relevant to a war that our great-grandparents lived. So the myth was absorbed within the narrative of a soldier.

Rehearsals

In my work, I need a character I can relate to but also a character who can relate to me. So we decided that this colonial soldier was a dancer who is thrown into the trenches somewhere in Europe. Most of the piece takes place in a trench, at least in an abstract sense.

I worked with my dramaturg, Ruth Little, and a writer, Jordan Tannahill. Jordan said the more text you can get rid of the better. In Asian culture, our meanings are in our actions not our words. British theatre is predominantly text-driven, though its changing a lot now.

Rehearsals

Performance

Ruth, Jordan and I agreed that the action of the story had to be told by the body not by the words.

The designer Mirella Weingarten was amazing to work with. She created hell for me and she was absolutely happy to do that. She said: You need to struggle with the elements. I said, Im struggling with the biggest element: my age! Im fighting time.

Xenos

On Xenos, Im working again with Michael Hulls. He is the god of lighting for dance. He created a unique aesthetic for dance.

Xenos

Xenos

When I discuss the work with Michael, I talk more about the lights and he talks more about the dance. In the end, Id say he uses 1% of what I talk about in lighting and I use 1% of what he talks about in dance.

Xenos

Xenos is my last full-length solo. I wanted to go back to classical dance, which is where I started. Indian musicians sing while the audience comes in, and the opening scene is a mini classical concert.

Each piece I create is a three-year process. The first year is really about having an idea and inviting collaborators. The second year is about meeting up regularly, talking about the subject and collecting a lot of images, poetry, text and historical facts.

The third year is all about the movement. We spend two to four months in the studio and a few weeks in a theatre. This time, we spent six weeks on stage first at the Grange in Hampshire and then in Athens.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa Safont‘I’m fighting time’: Akram Khan on his last full solo, Xenos in pictures

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