A familial story told through dance, Akram Khan brings DESH to the Canadian Stage
He’s known as one of Britain’s top choreographers receiving numerous awards and commissions from around the world. Whether you recognize his name from the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremonies or you have heard about his spectacular awe-inspiring dance shows, choreographer and dancer Akram Khan has become a household name but his journey as a celebrated artist wasn’t always an easy one.
Khan is bringing a very touching and personal story to the Toronto audiences; a story that transports him back to his own childhood and homeland, Bangladesh. The 80-minute solo dance work, DESH (meaning homeland), showcases his complex relationship with his father as he uses intricate fast unique movements to tell this emotional story. Visually and technologically appealing in every way, DESH, commissioned by Canadian Stage, is being premiered at the Bluma Appel Theatre on October 31st and Toronto, you don’t want to miss this!
I had the privilege of observing some of Khan’s dance work during an intimate master class that was put on by Canadian Stage. Twelve dancers from selected companies across Toronto were nominated to attend and learn from the Kathak and contemporary dance based artist. I was lucky and honoured to be one of the chosen artists. What stood out during the class was Khan’s calm approach to teaching the various dance styles. Often using humor and storytelling to teach, Khan gave us a taste of his choreography while also making the dancers work hard and sweat.
A Q&A, with Canadian Stage’s Artistic and General Director Matthew Jocelyn and Akram Khan, followed the class. DESH was commissioned as it was seen as relatable to the Toronto audiences. “It’s a person’s journey for identity,” said Jocelyn explaining that this is a rich narrative to share.
In addition to Khan telling his story through dance, he also spoke candidly during the Q&A about his ‘difficult yet very beautiful’ relationship with his Kathak teacher explaining that his experience with him gave him the technique but not necessarily the freedom to discover his own identity. “I didn’t have my individuality and that is when I escaped,” explained Khan as he spoke about his transition into Contemporary dance. “That’s when I trained myself.”
Khan’s authenticity in the way he spoke and danced was apparent. “I have one strength and that is that I don’t give up,” Akram Khan said with conviction. Akram Khan Company continues to tour the world wowing audiences from different cultures. Canadian Stage is committed to showing international work and reaching out to diverse audiences. DESH will be performed for only three days at Canadian Stage and I’m predicting that these will be sold out shows. Purchase tickets in advance!
Photo by Richard Haughton