Akram Khan Company India Tour 2012; by Farooq Chaudhry

In September 2012, Akram Khan Company undertook a six-city tour of India with its dance production Gnosis. The company performed in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi. The tour was a partnership between Akram Khan Company, the British Council and the Prakriti Foundation in India. It was an intense schedule whereby the company spent three days in each city – a travel day, technical set up day and performance day. It was Akram Khan’s first tour to India after a gap of nine years. The programme was a balance of classical kathak and modern dance. After the success of Akram’s section in the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony and his ever-increasing status as an internationally renowned artist, the expectations in India were high.

When the company first toured India in 2003, the audience was of an affluent high status fashionable crowd, as such one gets at major opera houses in Europe. This time around the audience was much more diverse. It was great to see many young people, students, and established and fledgling artists. The audience was much more knowledgeable and enthusiastic than previously, and it was an immense pleasure to share our work with them. They were more in line with the audience demographics we get in London and Europe, and
it was very reassuring to see how India is embracing more contemporary expression and accepting the fact that it is more relevant to its evolving culture. In my opinion, Gnosis performance has attracted more attention because it was a mixed programme of classical and contemporary dance, Akram’s enhanced status and the programme was part of a touring festival arranged by Prakriti foundation. All venues were suitable for showcasing our work though there still remain issues over the availability of good quality technical resources.

Akram and I conducted workshops as part of the programme. Arts managers and artists mainly attended the workshops. That’s no surprise because of the workshop programme focusing on dance producing and dance creating. It was a real mix of experienced professionals and those who have just entered the market. I believe the expectations of those that attended were realistic and it was an enjoyable experience to share processes with those who were hungry to learn. As I said earlier the primary expectations of participants was to understand how they could develop their own creative process, rethink the best models for managing their organisations, being better leaders and thinking how best their work could be positioned and developed in the context of a “market.”

We did not really have time to establish any collaborative opportunities on the tour apart from hiring a local musician who appeared to learn a lot from working with Akram and his company. We did however meet with a very promising young choreographer called Deepak Shivaswamy. He had just won a choreography award and we decided to support him by inviting and paying for him to attend a creative process with Akram in Europe and to mentor him through the creation of a new work he is making. Aside from Deepak we met many
talented artists and we certainly sense the tour has paved the way for future collaborations.

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