Akram Khan Dance Company and National Ballet of China: Bahok
Tramway, Glasgow, Thu 22 & Sat 23 May
Bringing different cultures together has always been one of Akram Khan’s strengths. For the past ten years, the acclaimed dancer/choreographer has created an entirely new form of dance, based on contemporary moves and Indian Kathak. Now he’s added a third culture into the equation – Chinese.
An ambitious collaboration with the National Ballet of China, Bahok took months of rehearsal to put together. As Shanell Winlock, dancer with the Akram Khan Company explains, one major stumbling block stood in their way. ‘Initially the language was a bit of a problem,’ she says, ‘because none of them spoke any English, so we had to use a translator which slowed down the process. But after a while we got the hang of it and it’s been an incredible mix.’
Learning to communicate with one another was crucial to Bahok’s creation, as so much of the material used in the dance is based on personal experience. Set in a waiting room, five dancers from Khan’s company and four from China try to find their way ‘home’ – wherever that may be. ‘Home is so different for everyone,’ says Winlock. ‘For example, for one of the characters his home is in his head, because his physical home was destroyed back in India, so he only has his memories.’
Winlock joined the Akram Khan Dance Company in 2001 and ended up marrying the boss himself four years later. Like all the dancers in Khan’s company, she had to undergo a crash course in Kathak – an ancient Indian dance style which can take years to master. Already an accomplished contemporary dancer, Winlock found that learning Kathak had a profound affect on her.
‘It somehow soaked into my body subconsciously,’ she says. ‘And made a real impact on the way I think and move. That’s the beauty of this kind of dance – you go past the technicality of it and it becomes more about what you have to offer an audience, not just what you have to show.’