World premiere: 15 Sept 2011, Curve Theatre, Leicester
London premiere: 4 Oct 2011, Sadler’s Wells, London
Duration: 80 minutes with no interval

DESH is a full-length contemporary solo and the most personal work to date from celebrated choreographer and performer, Akram Khan. DESH meaning ‘homeland’ in Bengali, draws multiple tales of land, nation, resistance and convergence into the body and voice of one man trying to find his balance in an unstable world.

Moving between Britain and Bangladesh, Khan weaves threads of memory, experience and myth into a surreal world of surprising connection. At once intimate and epic, DESH explores fragility in the face of natural forces, and celebrates the resilience of the human spirit in the rhythms of labour, in dream and story,  and in transformation and survival.

For this production, Khan teams up with Oscar-winning visual artist Tim Yip (Production Designer for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), fellow Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist lighting designer Michael Hulls, writer and poet Karthika Nair and Olivier award-winning composer Jocelyn Pook.

‘Those transparent Dacca gauzes
known as woven air, running
water, evening dew.’ (Agha Shahid Ali)


Message from COLAS

A silhouette dancing against a familiar diamond-shaped form. Colas and Akram Khan Company have been paving the way forward, hand in hand, since 2008. First came the time of mutual discovery and understanding. Where did our roads cross? Where did our worlds overlap? As engineers and dancers, we both needed to get off the well-beaten paths traced by our professions.

In the end, we were able to see far beyond our own personal projects, to perceive what we shared: the desire for excellence, a forward-thinking focus, flexibility, humility, courage, the capacity to go further than our limits and confront the obstacles formed by our bodies and by matter, pride in what we have created, erecting strong, solid bridges between people. Even stronger, even more solid than preconceived ideas and resistance.

The partnership between Colas and Akram Khan Company tells the tale of an opening of minds, of mutual growth. Something strikes me today: as Akram Khan observed, our thoughts were always focused on ‘we’, never on just ‘I’. This is without a doubt how this story came to be, sparked by the desire to work together and by the instinct that we had both found the right partner.

We have decided to continue to extend these bridges. It started with Vertical Road. Then, it was DESH: more than a simple case of corporate patronage; it’s a genuine joint venture.

Hervé Le Bouc, Chairman and CEO of COLAS



Direction, Choreography and Performance Akram Khan

Visual Design Tim Yip
Music Composition Jocelyn Pook
Lighting Design Michael Hulls

Stories imagined by Karthika Nair and Akram Khan
Written by Karthika Nair, PolarBear and Akram Khan
Dramaturge Ruth Little
Creative Acting Director Zoë Nathenson
Eshita’s Voice Sreya Andrisha Gazi
Jui’s Voice Eesha Desai

Visual Animation created by Yeast Culture
Sound Design Nicolas Faure
Costume Supervisor Kimie Nakano

Technical Director Fabiana Piccioli
Rehearsal Director Jose Agudo
Technical Coordinator Sander Loonen
Sound Engineer Marcus Hyde
Light Technician Stephane Dejours
Stage Technician  John Valente
Tour Manager Mashitah Omar
Producer Farooq Chaudhry

Akram Khan gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the following artists:
Damien Jalet (devised Painted Head Sequence with Akram Khan), Leesa Gazi (Culture Coordinator / Voice Artist), Steve Parr (music recording and mixing), Samuel Lefeuvre, Nicola Monaco, Andrei Nazarenko, Sebastien Ramirez, RootlessRoot (Linda Kapetanea & Jozef Frucek), Shantala Shivalingappa, Kate Braithwaite, Sue Buckmaster, Renee Castle, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Daniel Hart, Syed Shamsul Haq, Chris Janschke, Labik Kamal, Urmee Mazher, Bhasker Patel, Shamsur Rahman and the singers Sohini Alam, Natacha Atlas, Melanie Pappenheim, Jeremy Schonfield and Tanja Tzarovska.

Akram Khan is an Associate Artist of MC2: Grenoble and Sadler’s Wells, London in a special international co-operation.

Sponsored by COLAS

Co-produced by MC2: Grenoble, Curve Leicester, Sadler’s Wells London, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Concertgebouw Brugge

Produced during residencies at Curve, Leicester and MC2: Grenoble

Akram Khan Company acknowledges the support of the Bangladesh High Commission, London

Special thanks to Michel Orier, Paul Kerryson, Alistair Spalding, Béatrice Abeille Robin, Mr & Mrs Khan, Raihana Ahmad, Shahidul Alam, Eeshita Azad, British Council Bangladesh, Ruby Ghuznavi (textile curator), Irene Lu, Tareque Masud, Ramendu Majumdar (ITI), Susan Mearns (ActionAid), NariMaitree, Eela Muhaimin, Shlomo, Anne-Marie Bigby, Amy Hollis, Gemma Ottey and Yohan Zeitoun.

DESH - Trailer

The Six Seasons - Trailer

Trailer of the documentary on DESH produced by Lardux Films and directed by Gilles Delmas

In the press

"Poignant, thrilling, magical, moving and utterly transfixing"

The Daily Telegraph *****

The Sydney Morning Herald: 'DESH - review' by Jill Sykes (7 Sept 2014)

DESH is a solo dance piece of exceptional breadth in its theatrical power and embrace of other artforms. This is both a personal and global piece exploring issues like home and family, identity and fantasy, affection and resistance. It has a searing impact.


The Saturday Paper: 'Brisbane Festival performer Akram Khan brings Desh to life' by Samuel Wagan Watson (6 Sept 2014)

I ponder, as we part, how gravity can even contend with this artist, Akram Khan.


Pulse: 'Akram Khan - Creativity From Chaos' by Donald Hutera (27 Mar 2013)

In 2011 came Desh, an epic autobiographical solo that many greeted as one of Khan’s finest work to date. The piece was anchored by its chief creator’s consummate dancing and presence – a combination that helped Khan bag a well-deserved gong as male dancer of the year from the UK Dance Critics’ Circle in January 2013.


South China Morning Post: 'Stunning one-man show succeeds at every level' by Natasha Rogai (20 Nov 2011)

Although Khan is the only live performer, Tim Yip’s simple yet brilliant visual design, Jocelyn Pook’s evocative music and a soundtrack that conjures up the street life of Bangladesh and the presence of other characters make this seem a much larger-scale production.


The Independent: 'DESH - review' by Zoë Anderson (10 Oct 2011)

Desh piles up layers of meaning, the world changing as people try to make sense of it.


The Daily Telegraph: 'Odyssey to a land of magic, mayhem and monsoons' by Mark Monahan

The first full-length solo contemporary work by Akram Khan though created with 24-carat collaborators.


The Financial Times: 'Desh, Sadler's Wells, London' by Clement Crisp (5 Oct 2011)

Khan dances gloriously, speaks admirably, establishes an imaginative world of uncanny clarity.


The Times: 'DESH - review' by Debra Craine (20 Sept 2011)

Khan’s choreography is marked by an equality of power and fluidity, while as a performer he is as mesmerising in stillness as he is in full flow.


The Observer: 'DESH - review' by Luke Jennings (17 Sept 2011)

A one-man show about a country in which you are never alone sounds like a paradox, but Khan peoples his stage with a host of alter egos.


Leicester Mercury: 'Khan's thought provoking masterpiece' by Louise Jenkins (16 Sept 2011)

A spectacular performance and standing ovation for Akram Khan.


The Guardian: 'DESH - review' by Judith Mackrell (16 Sept 2011)

Guilt, comedy, anger and tenderness are vivid here.


Behind the scenes

You are about to leave the Akram Khan Company website to experience the creation of XENOS on our microsite.
For the best experience, we recommend that you visit the microsite on a desktop with your sound on and view it in full screen.
Continue to XENOS experience

Before you go, why not sign up to our mailing list..

Back to top