Akram Khan Company marks its 20th anniversary with The Silent Burn Project
The company, formed in 2000 by Akram Khan and Farooq Chaudry, has become well known for its imaginative, highly accessible and deeply moving productions where the storytelling is at once epic and intimate, and Khan has become recognised around the world as one of the most important choreographers working today.
We are in the midst of a seismic change and so I feel, this may be an opportunity for all of us to collectively unearth our past. A past that we may have buried away in the earth and in our bodies, always silently hoping that it would remain in the past. So much of this past was and still is, rooted in the ideas and actions of separation, neglect, hope, fear and denial. And it has slowly and inevitably melted into the themes and narratives within the work that I have created over the last twenty years at AKC.
But to look back requires courage. And in my journey as an artist, I must continue to shout loudly: I was never alone in unearthing these challenging stories.
To mark the anniversary, the company will present a live-streamed programme of work celebrating its 20-year history. The Silent Burn Project will combine storytelling with personal experiences from the multiple voices and talents who have contributed to the company's work over the last two decades. All the content, including dance and music short films, panel discussions, touring memories and documentaries, has been produced and created especially for this event. It will launch at midday (BST) on Sunday 4 October, and the stream will be accessible for free around the world on the company website, YouTube channel and on Facebook Live.
Like so many events this year, this anniversary is being celebrated online, but it is something Khan looks on with positivity:
Here we are, at a moment in time where we are forced to stop travelling, to stop moving, to just stop. But stop to me, doesn't mean stop. I like to believe it just means pause.
Hence, after these twenty years of unearthing, discovering, and retelling through new lenses, this is a moment for me to reflect and to look back at the footsteps that we at AKC have taken collectively. It has enabled me to appreciate all the footsteps that have been following us, and at times leading us but most often, walking with us, so we never had to feel alone on this ever-lonesome journey of an artist, whose voice, body and skin always belonged to the earth and not to the sky.
The programme will feature short films with Akram Khan Company dancers Yen-Ching Lin, Ching-Ying Chien, Theo TJ Lowe, Kristina Alleyne, Sadé Alleyne, Kennedy Junior Mutanga, and Akram Khan himself, as well as musicians Sohini Alam, Nina Harries, B C Manjunath, David Azurza, and Chitra Poornima Sathish.
A documentary series in three episodes called Symphony of Fingerprints will be included, which shows unseen and rare moments of the creative process from various productions, with stories told by Khan's close collaborators: dramaturg Ruth Little, composer Vincenzo Lamagna, creative associate Mavin Khoo, and dancer Joy Alpuerto Ritter.
This programme also explores questions fundamental to the company's values with two panel discussions. The first will focus on Otherness, with special contributions from American ballerina Misty Copeland, British poet Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, Indian cultural critic Rustom Bharucha, South East Asian cultural activist Eddin Khoo and British lecturer in theatre Royona Mitra. A second conversation will examine perspectives on God, gathering the views of British anthropologist Jerome Lewis, Indian dance researcher Jayachandran Surendran, and Indonesian writer and activist Ayu Utami.
The company has also released The Fury of Beautiful Things, a photo book looking back at its last two decades in dance. The monograph is the first devoted to Akram Khan Company. It is made up of photographs of the twenty-six works that Khan has created for his company, alongside personal essays written by Khan and Farooq Chaudhry. Khan has always followed some simple rules: take risks, think big, explore the unfamiliar, avoid compromise and tell stories through dance that are compelling and relevant, with artistic integrity.
Some of the images from the book accompany this article.
Farooq Chaudhry, producer and co-founder of Akram Khan Company said,
How do I sum up the meaning of last twenty years? I can't but our digital anniversary celebration The Silent Burn Project will do it for me. It's a joyful reflection on our past, a moment to be still in the present and an unflinching gaze into the future. All in the uncertainty of a pandemic that has left us bereft of our dearest and closest friend – the physical space.
The Akram Khan Company story has been a journey of at least one thousand talents to whom I am profoundly grateful. When we've been at our very best our art has invited audiences to lose and find themselves exactly at the same time. Throughout, we've sought to learn and grow from every creative act and person we've engaged with and that gives me an immense sense of pride and what I personally consider our greatest achievement.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.