Akram Khan

Article Bio Works Merits Projects
beauty, body, dream, harmony, identity, love, tradition
Performing Arts (dance / choreography, dance / modern)
Asia, Southern and Central, Europe, Western
Bangladesh, England (UK)
created on:
July 2, 2003
last changed on:
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Akram Khan
Akram Khan


Powerful dance across time and borders

London-based Akram Khan is a leading British dancer and choreographer, acclaimed for the vitality he brings to cross-cultural expression, influenced by his training in Western contemporary dance and Kathak, the Indian classical genre.
Akram Khan is the dance personality of the moment. His choreography is intelligent, compelling and beautiful to watch. He is one of the young artists bringing new vitality to cross-cultural expressions in the world today.

As his ongoing trilogy of Kathak solo shows, he has every intention of staying with his roots - and every intention of making them known to his Western audience.

Akram Khan thrills audiences and critics all around the world with his mixture of contemporary, western dance and the classical, Indian Kathak dance. In 2003, Khan and his company were in Denmark for the first time ever with the performance ´Kaash´, in collaboration with world-renowned sculptor Anish Kapoor and award winning composer Nitin Sawhney.

So masculine and yet so sensual. So down-to-earth and yet full of mystery. With his superb technical prowess and deep knowledge of the 500-year-old dance tradition Kathak, he is the dance personality of the moment. As a child, Akram Khan participated in Peter Brook´s Mahabharata but dance became his life. Now he performs as one of the worlds´s most brilliant dancers and choreographers, with his own unique style that he himself calls "Contemporary Kathak".

Khan was born in London to Bengali parents. His mother encouraged him to start dancing in the Kathak tradition at the age of seven. Later, when he began studying contemporary dance, his teachers were frustrated by the influence of Kathak tradition on his dance. But Khan used this to his advantage and created a brand new style, which is a mix of the two. When he left Northern College of Contemporary Dance it was with the highest marks ever given.

The sleekness of his performing style is as focussed as a laser beam. "Here is a real star in the making", wrote Time Out, London, already in 2000.

Apart from his numerous dance performances, (see: Works), Akram has also initiated “Eye-Con” - an education project with teenagers, and a recital with Guru Maharaj and his own guru Sri Pratap Pawar.


* "It´s easy to be in awe of Khan´s skin flaying bursts of speed, but his stillmesses are near miraculous"
\The Independent

* "Some quintet´s in Kaash are the most sophisticated sine Merce Cunningham"
\Financial Times

* "It is like watching the aftermath of the Big Bang, with Khan´s choreography as the fallout"

* "Epic, deeply focused and grandly beautiful"
\Daily Telegraph

In December 2000, Akram Kahn said to Narthaki Online, in reply to the interviewer´s question: When you create your new works, what do you have in mind?
"a. Purity b. Simplicity c. Honesty"
Author: Karin Bergquist


Akram Khan was born in London to Bengali parents. His mother encouraged him to start dancing in the Kathak tradition at the age of seven. He trained at The Academy of Indian Dance, under the tutelage of world - renowned guru, Sri Pratap Pawar. He then went on to study contemporary dance at De Montfort University and later at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds where he recorded the highest mark ever for his Performing Arts degree.

As a teenager Akram Khan performed all around the world, working with Pandit Ravi Shankar in ´The Jungle Book´, and later in ´Mahabharata´ directed by Peter Brook.

Following his graduation from Northern School of Contemporary Dance, where he received the highest mark ever for a Performing Arts degree, he worked with Jonathan Burrows and won a coveted place on the X-Group project organised by P.A.R.T.S., Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker´s Brussels based school.
In August 2000 at the age of 25, he launched his own company which within the space of eighteen months has appeared at some of the most important contemporary dance festivals around the world.
Akram Khan was until April 2005 Associate Artist at London´s South Bank Centre, the first non-musician to be afforded this status.

Akram Khan is currently an Associated Artist at Sadlers Wells.



Production / Performance,
Akram Khan´s largest and most ambitous company work to date. This choreography for seven dancers, three musicians and text by acclaimed writer Hanif Kureishi tours around the world until summer 2006.

A God of Small Tales

Production / Performance,
Akram Khan´s piece for mature women for which he collaborated with writer, Hanif Kureishi

Half and Nine

Production / Performance,
(solo recital 15 mins) A tabla improvisation based on nine and a half beats time cycle. Played by Vishnu Sahai and accompanied by Akram Khan.


Production / Performance,
(quintet approx 60 mins) Akram Khan teams up with the celebrated talents of Anish Kapoor (set design) and Nitin Sawhney (composer) to present his company´s first full-length work. "Hindu Gods, black holes, Indian time cycles, tablas, creation and destruction" are the starting points for this production.

Related Rocks

Production / Performance,
a major collaboration with the London Sinfonietta to a Magnus Lindburg score

Polaroid Feet

Production / Performance,
(approx 2 hours) An evening of the traditional indian classic dance Kathak nritta in still in motion. Opening with a salutation to both Islamic and Hindu religions, Akram presents short compositions which weave complex rhythmical patterns through the sixteen beat cycle "TINTAL". Within this pure dance piece there is a large scope for improvisation, in which a dialogue is created between dancer and tabla player. ardhanarishwara One half Shiva, one half Parvati, in exact balance. The equipoise of Ardhanarishwara is dynamic expressed through the fluid asymmetry of its posture. This piece brings to light the aspect of recitation in Kavitt as poetry form blended in with melodic interludes. The balance that Ardhanarishwara represents is not merely biological as in gender, or physical as in the distinctly male and female stances that are conjoined in the composite being, but extends as a metaphor to all of creation.


Production / Performance,
(trio 30 mins) A purely abstract work inspired by the observation of paragliders in ?freefall?- a physical state between tremendous speed and serene stillness. A rare Indian time cycle of nine and a half beats is the choreographer?s basic structure for movement, space and music.


Production / Performance,
indian classic dance Kathak solo dance


Production / Performance,
(solo 15 mins) The work explores the relationship between Sufism and kathak/contemporary movement. It asks the question where does the trance-like state of the whirling dervishes of Sufism - meet with Kathak´s turns and spins and circling movements? This solo work is a collaboration with lighting designer Michael Hulls and British Asian composer Nitin Sawhney. Fix was created with the assistance of a Jerwood Choreography Award 1999.


In 1999 Akham Khan won a Jerwood Foundation Choreography Award.

In 2000 he was awarded a coveted position in the X-group choreographic laboratory, which brought 25 young dancers and choreographers from around the world together at Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker´s Brussels based contemporary dance school, PARTS.

For his work in 2000 he was awarded Outstanding Newcomer to Dance Awards by both the Critics Circle´s Dance Section and Time Out Live.

In April 2001 Akram Khan was invited to be Choreographer in Residence at the Royal Festival Hall in London for a period of two years.

In the summer of the same year he was invited by Peter Brook to act in his film version of Hamlet which will be screened in 2002.

In December 2001 he was specially commissioned by The London Sinfonietta to create a new work to the music Related Rocks by the Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg.

In early 2002 Akram Khan was nominated for a Best Choreography Award by the Dance Critics Circle as well as a South Bank Dance Show Award.

He was nominated for the Nijinsky Award at the Monaco Dance Forum and “Kaash” was awarded as the best dance show in France in 2002 by the French magazine “Les Inrockuptibles”.
April 2003 Akram Khan marks the completion of his highly successful tenure as Choreographer In Residence and heralds the beginning of his new status as an Associate Artist of the Royal Festival Hall, the first non-musician to be afforded that status.

The subject of a full length television documentary for ITV´s South Bank Show, Akram also has been the recipient the Jerwood Foundation Choreography Award, and the International Movimentos Tanzpreis 2004 (Berlin) for Most Promising Newcomer in Dance.

In July 2004 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from De Montfort University for his contribution to the UK arts community, and in June 2005 was made a MBE for his services to Dance.

In January 2005 Akram was awarded the South Bank show award for Dance for his work “ma”.


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Images of Asia

(08 August 03 - 26 September 03)