Akram Khan: the jungle in the choreographer's genetics

Quality is demonstrated by walking, creating. Akram Khan (Lambeth, London, 1974) is a dancer and choreographer who has established himself based on not rejecting himself, his originality and his way of seeing contemporary dance performance. The inveterate open-mindedness of the British scene allowed him to progress, be recognized and ascend, win prizes and access to work with great canonical companies, where he has sometimes skated his own. He is logical in prolific artists. If your Giselle is not something that will last despite the snobbish success it provoked, his version of the jungle book (either The book of virgin lands, 1894), by Rudyard Kipling, can in its own right aspire to it. It is a beautiful two-hour show, full of poetry, stage magic and good dancing. The quality of the ten dancers is one of the guarantees and delight of this work, their dedication and tone throughout an exhausting exhibition.

His Bangladeshi origins and a certain training in the traditional khatak dance launched him into the experiment; it can be said that eclecticism in Khan is a recurrence where a style is processed. Attentive to what was happening around him, without a very attractive figure according to what canons, the suburban boy fixed the focus of criticism on him and his solos, his energy and his nerve.

Jungle Book Reimagined

Choreography: Akram Khan; script: Tariq Jordan; playwriting: Sharon Clarkand; music: Jocelyn Pook; lights: Michael Hulls; art director and animation: Adam Smith; video: Nick Hillel, Akram Khan Company. Red room. Canal Theaters (Madrid). Until June 11.

But there is something else and that comes to mind today, almost 40 years after the events: Akram Khan, according to all his biographies, began his career on stage in a long tour of the play for young audiences Adventures of Mowgli between 1984 and 1985, this time produced by what was then called the Academy of Dances of India, a prestigious institution that had existed for decades and that today survives under another name: Academy of Dances of South Asia. That’s where our choreographer started with his roots and everything has changed a lot, especially the perspective and point of view with which we read Kipling today.

Akran stood out for his nerve and initiatives. At age 12 he was selected to appear in the mixed cast of the first Mahabharata, by Peter Brook; Later, he appeared in the 1989 film in the leading role of Prince Ekalavya, a young monarch of Nishadha, a leader who brought together the jungle tribes, according to established Indian mythology. Predestination? The word “jungle”, that totem, had already appeared twice in his life and would return in this work for which Kipling’s book is something like a manageable logbook about the ups and downs of the world, a path between large vine shoots like enormous mistakes.

Another moment of the show.
Another moment of the show. AMBRA VERNUCCIO ALL COPYRIGHT RESERVED

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Khan’s work is measured and cared for down to the millimeter, it is a prodigy of technique and association between music, technological effects, light and live dance. All encouraged by the underlying poetry in that enormous labyrinthine building that is Hindu mythology. As always, the great myths of yesterday are worth us today with the same absorbing efficiency. A co-production with almost 20 institutions and theaters, including Lyon, the Teatro de La Villa in Paris and the Edinburgh festival, provide the means for this “reinvented jungle book”, which is valid for young and old, does not evade its part spectacular related to the great commercial musical theater (you can even see subtle influences of the musical The Lion King that do not bother or squeak) and will travel the world, in fact it already does, as it did Mahabharata, of Brook, in his day (in October 1985 Mahabharata was in Madrid, but Akram Khan does not appear in the surviving credits, although he was already involved).

Despite the fact that the translation in subtitles was deficient and partial (the least achieved), it is possible to understand the entire plot and its sublime idea of ​​love for nature and among all living beings. This discourse on animalistics in modern and contemporary dance could be extended, whose most noble and elevated antecedent to take into account is, without a doubt, The creation of the world, with libretto by Blaise Cendrars, music by Darius Milhaud, choreography by Jean Börlin and fantastical designs by Fernand Léger. It was in 1923 in Paris (Swedish Ballets), just where Brook himself sketched more than half a century later his Mahabharata.

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