Akram Khan

SADLER’S WELLS HOSTS ART AND HUMAN RIGHTS TALK

Sadler’s Wells hosted a free public talk exploring the relationship between art and human rights on the first day of Fly The Flag week, part of a nationwide campaign marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Chaired by Kate Arthurs, Director of Arts at the British Council, the debate examined the role of art in addressing human rights issues. Author, university professor and prominent human rights barrister Philippe Sands QC, Jasmin Vardimon, choreographer and artistic director of Jasmin Vardimon Company, and actor, writer and equality campaigner Kate Willoughby shared insight from their own experiences, work and expertise.

The rich and thought-provoking discussion considered how we are often unaware of our human rights, take them for granted, or think about them as something relating to ‘others’. It highlighted how there is still a lot to be done to build understanding that each and every one of us has a minimum set of fundamental rights at any given time, and how art is uniquely placed to humanise stories, make individual issues universal, appeal to our emotions and foster empathy among people – ultimately advancing the cause of human rights for all.


Alistair Spalding, Sadler’s Wells’ Artistic Director and Chief Executive, introduces the Fly The Flag arts and human rights talk.

The evening began with a video contribution by choreographer Akram Khan. Alongside members of his dance company, in the clip he reflected on why art is such a powerful reminder of our shared humanity.

Fly the Flag 70 / Outwitting the Devil, Akram Kahn Company.
Video: Maxime Dos

“People connect with art because they find themselves in it.”

Akram Khan

Kate Arthurs then invited the speakers to share their thoughts on why, and how, art bears witness to, and shines a light on, our human rights.

“Human rights are the heartbeat of our humanity. They’re the lifeblood of our very existence and the hope for better days ahead – without them, humankind is lost. As creatives, we have incredible power. Art is underestimated as a powerful tool. With it, you can reach people, move and lift them, and change lives.”

Kate Willoughby

“Art is firstly a form of expression, a form of communication. It can shine a new light on subject matter, raise awareness, provoke thoughts, stimulate emotions and present a reality from an unconventional perspective. All of this can open new ways in which to view our world, and potentially lead to making actual change happen.”

Jasmin Vardimon

Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, gender inequality and crimes against humanity are some of the subjects explored in Jasmin Vardimon’s work. Her productions Justitia, 7734, Freedom, Medusa and PARK all deal with themes relating to universal human rights.

Fly The Flag for Human Rights, Jasmin Vardimon Company.
Credit: Jasmin Vardimon Company

Reflecting on their professional experiences, the speakers said:

“My work means that I am always in one of two places: either the classroom or the courtroom. My audiences are therefore either students or judges. But it’s not enough for just those two groups of people to be part of the discussion – human rights issues are just too important for that. Through my work as a writer, I found out that I can reach an audience much wider than I could have ever imagined.”

Philippe Sands

“Courage from the past calls for courage in the present. The fight is tough, but this is not a time to be a bystander. Understanding the history of the suffragettes is understanding that these were brave, ordinary, extraordinary women that we can learn from.”

Kate Willoughby

“Working on a piece, I like to look at an issue from different points of view and ask questions. How much does who we are – our cultural background, our preconceptions – influence how we judge situations? Perspective changes everything. A terrorist can be seen as a freedom fighter from the other side. Does our point of view dictate what we see, or does what we see dictate our point of view?”

Jasmin Vardimon

L to R: Speakers Philippe Sands, Kate Willoughby and Jasmin Vardimon, and chair Kate Arthurs.

On the value and impact of the arts, in society and in our everyday lives:

“What better way to express ourselves than through the body? I think the human body has an endless capacity to communicate and express, to tell a story and to rouse emotions. Using the entire capacity of our body to express can be a very powerful, expressive and communicative vehicle, whether that’s intellectually or vocally. The body is the home for each individual’s thoughts and emotions – it houses what makes each of us unique.”

Jasmin Vardimon

“It’s incredibly important that people recognize that there is a crying need out there to provide support to the artistic world to do what it wants to do. It’s an important time for solidarity right now.”

Philippe Sands

“It’s important to be true to yourself. When you speak from the heart you are heard by the heart. Feelings trump facts and stories matter. As creatives, we can tap into these truths for good.”

Kate Willoughby
Kate Willoughby performs an extract from
To Freedom’s Cause, her play on suffragette Emily Davison

In the Q&A session with the audience, speakers discussed the importance of equality of access to arts and culture for everyone, and of democratising the dialogue in ways that ensure everyone can be a part of the conversation.

We closed the talk with a poem from The Unknown Hour, by renowned poet and novelist Ben Okri, which was read by Cameroonian journalist and English PEN’s current writer-in-residence Mimi Mefo Takambou.

Mimi Mefo Takambou reads Ben Okri’s poem from The Unknown Hour.

To fall is not to fall

From space or height. It is to fall from unity,

From oneness. But it is easier to walk out

Than to work it out. Easier to fall apart

Than to stay together. The romance of independence,

Of freedom, is stronger than the truth of unity.

Ben Okri, from The Unknown Hour

Fly The Flag week runs from 24 to 30 June and is co-produced by Fuel, Amnesty International, Donmar Warehouse, Human Rights Watch, Liberty, National Theatre, Sadler’s Wells and Tate. 

A TRIPLE WIN FOR DANCE AT 2019 OLIVIER AWARDS

A new work commissioned as part of celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of Sadler’s Wells building was named best new dance production at the Olivier Awards 2019, with two Sadler’s Wells Associate Artists also winning prizes.

At a ceremony held at the Royal Albert Hall on 7 April, dancer and choreographer Botis Seva was recognised for his work BLKDOG, while Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artists Akram Khan and Matthew Bourne took home the outstanding achievement in dance and a special award recognising three decades of achievement in British dance, respectively.

The Olivier Awards are Britain’s most prestigious stage honours, recognising excellence in – and the world-class status of – professional theatre in London.

Let’s take a closer look at these award-winning dance artists…

From left to right: Botis Seva, Akram Khan and Matthew Bourne.

Botis Seva: BLKDOG

Botis Seva is a dancer, choreographer and artistic director of company Far From the Norm. He works within the realms of contemporary dance, physical theatre and hip hop.

BLKDOG. Image: Johan Persson

His highly praised piece BLKDOG premiered at Sadler’s Wells in October 2018 as part of Reckonings – a triple bill of new work we commissioned as part of celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of our current theatre building, which also featured pieces by Alesandra Seutin and our New Wave Associate Julie Cunningham.

A “bleak and withdrawn commentary on having to cope with being a child-like adult and an untamed artist simultaneously”, BLKDOG took home best new dance production at yesterday’s Olivier Awards – a monumental win for hip hop dance, the UK’s wider dance industry and beyond.

Botis is currently the 2018-19 Guest Artistic Director of the National Youth Dance Company (NYDC), which is run by Sadler’s Wells. Now in its eighth year, the company comprises of 38 young dancers from across England. Working under the guidance of Botis and his creative team, NYDC is currently in rehearsals ahead of the premiere of MADHEAD, a new piece combining Botis’ unique choreographic style with the young dancers’ energy and talent. The show has its premiere at Dance East on 20 April ahead of a national tour over the summer, with a final performance at Sadler’s Wells on 19 July. 

Akram Khan: XENOS

Akram Khan is one of the most internationally celebrated dance artists working today. He was among the first group of dance artists appointed as Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist in 2005, and we’ve been proud to co-produce many of the acclaimed works he has created since, including zero degrees, a collaboration with fellow Associate Artist Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui; Sacred Monsters, created with ballet star Sylvie Guillem; GnosisVertical RoadDESHiTMOi (in the mind of igor); Until the Lions; and XENOS.

XENOS. Image: Jean-Louis Fernandez.

Akram’s style blends the Indian classical dance form of Kathak with contemporary dance to tell moving and powerful stories that have universal resonance. Marking Akram’s final performances as a solo dancer in a full-length work, XENOS captured the shell-shocked experience of a colonial soldier in the First World War.

His stellar performance in the solo piece earned him the outstanding achievement in dance prize at the Olivier Awards.

Matthew Bourne

Ashley Shaw and Sam Archer in Matthew Bourne’s Production of The Red Shoes.
Image: Johan Persson.

Matthew Bourne is widely hailed as the UK’s most popular choreographer and director. He is the creator of the world’s longest running ballet production, a five-time Olivier Award-winner, and the only British director to have won a Tony Award for both best choreographer and best director of a musical. He was also one of the first Associate Artists appointed at Sadler’s Wells in 2005.

In 2017, Matthew’s company New Adventures, a Resident Company at Sadler’s Wells, celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Matthew was presented with a special Olivier Award recognising three decades of extraordinary achievement in dance. This was his 8th Olivier Award, making him joint holder of the most ever Oliviers, alongside actress Judi Dench.

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet, his latest work, will come to our stage on Wednesday 7 August.

Go behind the scenes at Sadler’s Wells with #DancePassion

We’re excited to be part of #DancePassion – a new festival organised by BBC Arts in collaboration with One Dance UK, showcasing extraordinary dance from the four corners of the UK. As part of the live streaming day on Friday 5 April, we’re taking you behind the scenes at Sadler’s Wells to join exceptional dance-makers as they create and rehearse three works at different stages of development. We’ll be live streaming all the action on the Sadler’s Wells Facebook page and at www.bbc.co.uk/dance


Live from Sadler’s Wells
Friday 5 April

1.30pm
Akram Khan Company

Our Associate Artist Akram Khan invites you in to a rehearsal for his new company production, Outwitting the Devil. Drawing inspiration from the most recently discovered tablet from the Epic of Gilgamesh, Akram and his collaborators are creating the narrative of six characters seeking to make whole the fragments of ancient knowledge lost and forgotten over time.

3pm
English National Ballet

Dancers from our Associate Company English National Ballet rehearse Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Broken Wings, based on the life and art of Frida Kahlo. It’s one of three pieces featured in She Persisted, a programme of work by female choreographers performed at Sadler’s Wells on 4 – 13 April. She Persisted continues English National Ballet’s commitment to showcasing women’s voices in dance, and follows 2016’s celebrated She Said programme.

4pm
National Youth Dance Company

National Youth Dance Company is made up of 38 talented young dancers from all over England who are keen to make their mark on the dance world. Eight dancers from the company rehearse their new work MADHEAD with Olivier-nominated choreographer Botis Seva, this year’s Guest Artistic Director. Drawing on Botis’ unique movement language of physical theatre and hip hop, and on the exuberant, impulsive energy of youth culture, MADHEAD makes its world premiere at Ipswich’s DanceEast on 20 April, followed by a national tour culminating at Sadler’s Wells.

You can watch all the action live on the Sadler’s Wells Facebook page and see the full #DancePassion schedule on www.bbc.co.uk/dance

Akram Khan Company, English National Ballet, One Dance UK and Sadler’s Wells are among Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations. National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) is supported using public funding by the Department for Education and Arts Council England.

Watch Akram Khan in new digital art film XEN

Sadler’s Wells has commissioned Associate Artist Akram Khan to create a short film, XEN, inspired by XENOS, his final new full-length solo which receives its UK premiere at Sadler’s Wells on 29 May 2018.

Watch the full film below:

Created especially for the screen, XEN is a reimagined version of Akram Khan’s live performance, and is a response to XENOS’ evocation of the shell-shocked dream of a colonial soldier in the context of the First World War.

Meaning ‘stranger’ or ‘foreigner’, XENOS takes place where humanity stands in wonder and disarray, on the border between East and West, past and present, mythology and technology. The live production of XENOS reveals the beauty and horror of the human condition and seeks to express tales of loss, hope and redemption, through a movement language that shifts between classical kathak and contemporary dance.

XEN is produced by Illuminations for Sadler’s Wells, and is part of Sadler’s Wells’ commitment to developing new forms of dance which reach new audiences.

Akram Khan is one of the most celebrated and highly regarded dance makers working today. He has collaborated with artists including actress Juliette Binoche, ballerina Sylvie Guillem, choreographers/dancers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Israel Galván, singer Kylie Minogue, visual artists Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Tim Yip, writer Hanif Kureishi and composers Steve Reich, Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook and Ben Frost. A career highlight was the creation of a section of the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, set to Emeli Sandé’s rendition of Abide with Me.

Akram Khan became a Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist in 2005. Sadler’s Wells has co-produced many works with Akram Khan Company, including his acclaimed solo work DESH.

XENOS was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary. It is part of Sadler’s Wells’ 20th anniversary celebrations, and is among 20 commissions celebrating 20 years of the current building, which opened in 1998.

Akram Khan and Micheal Keegan-Dolan win at National Dance Awards

The National Dance Awards were announced today and we were delighted that a number of Sadler’s Wells’ associate artists and companies were among the winners.

Our Associate Artist Michael Keegan-Dolan’s moving Swan Lake/Loch na hEala for Teac Damsa was awarded Best modern choreography. Our Associate Artist Akram Khan’s wonderful Giselle for Associate Company English National Ballet won the Best classical choreography award, with Lead Principal Alina Cojocaru receiving the Outstanding classical performance (female) award for her performance in the title role.

Resident Company New Adventures’ Ashley Shaw took the Outstanding contemporary performance (female) award for her performance as Vicky Page in our Associate Artist Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. Lez Brotherston, Matthew’s long-time collaborator and creator of New Adventures’ spectacular set designs, was honoured with the Ninette de Valois award for outstanding contribution to dance.

Among other winners, Richard Alston Dance Company’s Liam Riddick received the award for best male dancer and former principal of The Royal Ballet Zenaida Yanowsky, who recently performed as part of Sadler’s Wells Sampled,  won best female dancer. The full list of winners is available here.

Many congratulations to all on their awards!

 

Image: Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake/Loch na hEala. Photo: Marie-Laure Briane.

Our associate artists and companies win four Oliviers

The winners of this year’s Olivier Awards were announced at the Royal Albert Hall on 9 April and we are thrilled that Sadler’s Wells’ associate artists and companies won four awards.

Our Associate Artist Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young received the Best New Dance Production award for Betroffenheit. Our Associate Company English National Ballet won Outstanding Achievement in Dance for expanding the variety of their repertoire with our Associate Artist Akram Khan’s Giselle and triple bill She Said at Sadler’s Wells. Our Associate Artist Matthew Bourne received the Best Theatre Choreographer award, while his latest production The Red Shoes, performed by our Resident Company New Adventures, won in the Best Entertainment and Family category.

Many congratulations to all!

 

Image: Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young’s Betroffenheit. Photo: Wendy D Photography

Associate Artists win gongs at South Bank Sky Arts, Astaire and Tony Awards

On 7 June 2015, two of Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artists and its Associate Company celebrated winning prestigious awards at two separate ceremonies.

In London, English National Ballet collected the Dance award at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2015 for Lest We Forget, including choreographies by Liam Scarlett and Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artists Akram Khan and Russell Maliphant. The company will bring the successful production to Sadler’s Wells in September.

The Award for Outstanding Achievement was bestowed on dancer Sylvie Guillem for her 35-year career, which has seen her shine in both classical ballets and modern works and, in the process, redefine what a female dancer can be.

In New York, Christopher Wheeldon received the award for best choreography for An American in Paris at the 2015 Tony Awards. The musical also won the awards for Scenic design, Lighting design and Orchestrations.

A few days earlier, on 1 June, Wheeldon had shared the Best Choreographer gong at the Astaire Awards with Joshua Bergasse of On the Town. At the same ceremony, Akram Khan won the Best Choreographer in a Feature Film category for Desert Dancer.

This award bonanza follows the success of Sylvie Guillem and Crystal Pite at the 2015 Laurence Olivier Awards in April – where Guillem was honoured with a special award and Pite won the Outstanding Achievement in Dance award for her choreography in A Picture of You Falling (as part of production The Associates), The Tempest Replica and Polaris (as part of Thomas Adès : See the Music, Hear the Dance) at Sadler’s Wells.

Congratulations to all artists on these much-deserved honours!

 

Image: English National Ballet performing Akram Khan’s Dust, part of Lest We Forget. Photography by ASH