Akram Khan’s Giselle- A Revered Ballet Classic Reimagined (Part II)
Akram Khan is one of the UK’s most celebrated and respect dance practitioners. His dance background is rooted in his classical kathak training and contemporary dance. Although Khan’s work is recognised as being profoundly moving, and he is known for his intelligently crafted storytelling which is effortlessly intimate and epic. he has no classical ballet training whatsoever. Nonetheless, when Khan was commissioned by Tamara Rojo, the artistic director of the English National Ballet to create a new version of Giselle for the company, he accepted the challenge.
Audiences more accustomed to the traditional productions of Giselle, may be shocked at this interpretation, yet the collaboration between choreographer Khan, composer Vincenzo Lamagna, staging and costumes by Academy Award-winning Tim Yip (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Rojo, (who also danced the leading role) is just as compelling as when Giselle was first unveiled more than 175 years ago.
Khan wanted his Giselle to be “not an English folk tale, but related to my present time”. Inspired by the refugee crisis in Europe and the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in which over 1,000 people were killed, Khan set the ballet among a community of migrant workers, who have been sacked from their jobs at a garment factory and are having to eke out a precarious existence in an impromptu camp. The courtly world of Albrecht is replaced by a privileged group of landlords and factory owners, who live apart from their workers behind a high wall.
Not a single white tutu or flowery headdress appears in Akram Khan’s Giselle, and dismissing these conventions helps melt away some common perceptions of ballet as an art form. Dancers in Khan’s Giselle wield weapons. Musicians chant from the orchestra pit. Classical Indian movements infuse the more traditional ballet technique presented by English National Ballet in an astonishing twist on this timeless classic.
The KLIAF is honoured to bring the cinematic version of Akram Khan’s Giselle to Malaysia for the first time in collaborations with KL DanceWorks. Filmed live at the Liverpool Empire in October 2017, the movie, directed by Ross Mc Gibbon, had his premiere in April 2018.
Part I of this post can be found at: https://www.diversecity.my/?p=348&preview=true