The Akram Khan Company.
(photo credit: JEAN-LOUIS FERNANDEZ)
When the Akram Khan Company’s dancers arrive in Israel this month, it will be to run the victory lap of a twoyear tour. The troupe, which visited Israel several years ago, will present iTMOi (in the mind of igor) at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. The piece was originally commissioned by London dance house Sadler’s Wells to celebrate the centennial of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
For the past 24 months, since the English premiere of iTMOi, the cast and crew have toured the world, performing in dozens of theaters for thousands of audience members.
Their Tel Aviv stop will mark the end of the iTMOi era, at least for the time being.
In 2013, Akram Khan was one of many choreographers to celebrate Stravinsky’s masterpiece. However, while many of his contemporaries approached the festivities by choreographing new movement to the complex music, Khan took a step back.
“I called Alastair [Spalding, artistic director of Sadler’s Wells] and said I wanted to do it but that I needed to talk to the composer. He said that God had the number of the composer because Stravinsky was not alive,” explains Khan.
He chuckles at the memory and continues, “All the composers I’ve worked with have been alive, so it posed a bit of a challenge. I began to research Stravinsky and became fascinated with him.”
As Khan could not contact the artist himself, he was left to decipher the meaning behind the music alone.
“The Rite of Spring is so complex, especially considering that it was written 100 years ago. What I like about Stravinsky, in my opinion, is that he had many different worlds and soundscapes existing in his head, and they were clashing with each other. I like the way he relates to memories through sound and how he brings it into his composition. As a child, he listened to Gypsy music walking through St.
Petersburg, so there is the sound of the ice melting and cracking in the river. He could remember the cart haul of horse carriages and traveling through the roads, the Gypsies playing music on the corners. And then he had the classical music, as his family members were classical musicians. And there was the desire for something contemporary. The opposition and clashing of worlds creates something special,” says Khan.
To emulate this meeting of sounds, Khan brought three composers on board. Nitin Sawhney has collaborated on many of Khan’s previous works, such as Vertical Road and Confluence. Jocelyn Pook teamed up with Khan to create the score for the 2011 piece DESH, for which she won a British Composer Award. This is the first collaboration between Khan and Rekjavik-based Ben Frost.
“I don’t know if the three composers really meet in this piece,” says Khan. “I wanted to see if I could put their three worlds together without them having to relate to one another.”
In addition to analyzing the music, Khan took a good look at the story of The Rite of Spring. The story of a violent ritual, The Rite of Spring follows a woman as she dances herself to death.
“There is something very pagan about it and very disturbing. Why does a woman have to die? Why doesn’t a man die? In all cultures we have rituals, and sacrifice is one of them, which is horrifying but universal, tragic and also fascinating. I used the concept of sacrifice as the central point of this piece,” he says.
The result is, in Khan’s words, the most operatic of his pieces. Khan allowed Kimie Nakano’s costumes and Fabiana Piccioli’s lights to transport the work into a dreamlike sphere, connected with images from around the world.
“The piece is very much about the woman. There is something very grotesque about it that I like. The costumes and the lighting have really given the work something.
They are an extension of my ideas and my thoughts,” says Khan.The Akram Khan Company will perform iTMOi at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on April 29, 30, May 1 and 2. For more information, visit www.israel-opera.co.il.