Bangladeshi origin-British dancer-choreographer Akram Khan, one of the UK’s most feted contemporary dancers, is to retire from full-length performances with a piece marking the centenary of the first world war, reports The Guardian.
The 43-year-old dancer-choreographer said he would still dance smaller roles and cameos, but the physical rigours of performing solo onstage for more than an hour were becoming too much.
Khan said his body was changing and becoming more prone to injuries. ‘It’s just a different stage of my life … that’s the reality and I have to come to terms with it,’ he said. ‘Not everyone is Sylvie,’ he added, referring to Sylvie Guillem, who bowed out from performance aged 50.
He said full-length solos ‘puts a huge strain on your body’. He began feeling it in 2011 when he was performing one of his most acclaimed works, Desh. ‘I realised then that the time was near, the clock was ticking.’
Khan is one of the UK’s most celebrated and prolific dancer-choreographers and became known to a far wider audience when he and his company performed, as Emile Sandé sang Abide With Me, at Danny Boyle’s London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.
His final full-length solo work will be a new production called Xenos, commissioned as part of 14-18 Now, the arts programme marking the centenary of the first world war.
Khan expected it would be difficult emotionally: ‘Transformation is always violent, even if it is not physically it is emotionally violent. What is important is to know what you want to do before you change. If I didn’t know what I wanted to do then I would just be lost.’
He said stepping aside from full-length work would allow him to concentrate more on choreography. He also hopes to do more TV work and will be seen on Channel 4 in November presenting a documentary exploring the impact robots and artificial intelligence are having on human relationships.
Xenos will have its world premiere at Athens in February, followed by performances in Australia at Adelaide Festival in March, Europe, North America and Hong Kong. Xenos will show at Sadler’s Wells in London in May, 16 years after the debut of Khan’s first full-length production, Kaash.
It draws on the story of a shell-shocked Indian soldier trapped in a trench and is told through the lens of the myth of Prometheus.
Khan said: ‘Xenos explores the central question at the heart of the myth: was Prometheus’s gift the blessing or the curse of mankind? At its centre is a colonial soldier, one of over 4 million men mobilised on behalf of the British empire. One point five million of these recruits were Indian, mostly peasant warriors from north and north-western India, and they fought and died in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
‘Many sepoys were buried abroad, while those who returned home, often mutilated and traumatised, were estranged from their own histories, homelands and countrymen, becoming xenoi.’
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