Sofija Stefanovic on Akram Khan
To watch Akram Khan dance is a sight to behold, and to a layperson like me, he seems to be of another species. He does things I could never do: spinning endlessly, bending whip-quick and in unnatural ways, telling a story that grows inside me as I watch, unsure of whether I am inventing it, or if he’s instilling it. I’m not often moved by dance; I probably don’t understand its nuances. But Akram Khan stirs up forgotten thoughts.
Khan was trained in Kathak dance, a classical Indian form invented by performing nomads. Kathak means ‘storyteller’. Kathak masters have incredible speed, balance and grace. They move to complex patterns and rhythms. Kathaks are also mimes. With a rubbery grace they emulate animals and also the gods; Shiva, Krishna and Ganesh. And for someone who’s body is almost godlike, what chaos an injury can create.
Khan was chosen by director Danny Boyle to conclude the Olympic opening ceremony. In semi-darkness, he and fifty others danced. Their brief from Boyle? Mortality. Controversially, NBC cut the segment from their coverage, denying American viewers the chance to see Emeli Sandé singing “Abide with Me” as Khan and his troupe performed in dust. Akram Khan’s piece ‘jarred a little’ with the rest of the ceremony—it wasn’t ‘easy viewing’. But Danny Boyle chose Akram Khan for a reason: he knew the choreographer could mesmerise the Olympic stadium into a breathless silence, imposing thoughtfulness on the world.
Akram isn’t ready for our phone interview. He apologises, politely, and asks me to call back. I do. He’s still out of sorts. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me these mornings, after my injury. Just getting up in the morning is really tough. Since my injury… something’s changed in my body.”