Until the Lions

World Première: 12 January 2016, Roundhouse, London
Last performance: 28 July 2019, Zoumbouleio Megaro, Kalamata


“As in many myths, the female characters are often the unsung heroes, the figures of strength and imagination and endurance. It is their unsung stories in particular that still haunt me today.” – Akram Khan

For a limited time from next week Thursday 27th August 2020, you’ll be able to watch Until the Lions from the comfort of your home. Join us at 19.00 (UK time) on the Roundhouse website.


In this partial adaptation of poet Karthika Naïr’s award-winning book Until the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata, an original reworking of the epic Mahabharata, Akram Khan uses kathak and contemporary dance to tell the tale of Amba, a princess abducted on her wedding day and stripped of her honour, who invokes the gods to seek revenge.

In an epic theatrical piece, Khan explores the notion and the physical expression of gender, bringing together some of the stellar artistic team behind his solo DESH: writer Karthika Naïr, visual artist Tim Yip, lighting designer Michael Hulls and dramaturg Ruth Little.

The three remarkable dancers, Rianto, Ching-Ying Chien and Joy Alpuerto Ritter, perform alongside four live musicians: singers Sohini Alam and David Azurza, percussionist Yaron Engler and musician Joseph Ashwin.


Ching-Ying Chien is the 2016 National Dance Award winner for ‘Outstanding Female Performance’ (Modern).

“Thrilling and beautiful"

The Observer ★★★★★


Director/Choreographer Akram Khan

Narrative Concept/Scenario/Text Karthika Naïr
Visual Design Tim Yip
Lighting Design Michael Hulls
Original Music Score composed by Vincenzo Lamagna, in collaboration with Sohini Alam, David Azurza, Yaron Engler, Akram Khan, Joy Alpuerto Ritter

Dramaturg Ruth Little
Assistant Director Sasha Milavic Davies
Assistant Choreographer Jose Agudo
Voice-over Kathryn Hunter

Dancers Ching-Ying Chien, Joy Alpuerto Ritter, Rianto
Musicians Sohini Alam, Joseph Ashwin, David Azurza, Yaron Engler

Producer Farooq Chaudhry
Technical Director Richard Fagan
Technical Coordinator Peter Swikker
Stage Manager Marek Pomocki
Lighting Engineer Stéphane Déjours
Sound Engineer Julien Deloison
Assistant to the Costume Designer & Costume Maker Peggy Housset
Model head designed and made by Blind Summit
Project Manager and Tour Manager Mashitah Omar


This production is a partial adaptation of Until the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata, a retelling in verse of the Mahabharata by Karthika Naïr (HarperCollins India, 2015 & Arc Publications UK, 2016).

Production initiated by the 360° Network of round artistic venues across the world.

Produced during residency at Sadler’s Wells London and Curve Leicester.

Co-produced by Roundhouse/Sadler’s Wells London, MC2: Grenoble, La Comète Châlons-en-Champagne, Théâtre de la Ville/La Villette Paris, Danse Danse/TOHU Montréal, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, New Vision Arts Festival Hong Kong, Taipei Performing Arts Center, Movimentos Festwochen Wolfsburg, Brighton Festival 2016, Maison de la Culture d’Amiens, Concertgebouw Brugge, manège, scène nationale – reims, Holland Festival Amsterdam, Romaeuropa Festival, Curve Leicester

Sponsored by COLAS

Created with generous support from The Quercus Trust

Supported by Arts Council England

Akram Khan is an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells London and Curve Leicester.

Special thanks to Marcus Davey, Alistair Spalding, Nikolai Foster and Curve team, Philippe Bachman, Hervé Le Bouc, Sophie Sadeler, Béatrice Abeille-Robin, Lady Angela Bernstein, Mr. & Mrs. Khan, Yuko Khan, Saju Hari, Mavin Khoo, Ushma William, Jayne Stevens, Louisa Robey, Bethany Storie, Pei-Shan Su, Natalie Roberts

Duration: approximately 1 hour, with no interval


Message from COLAS

Since 2010, Akram Khan Company and Colas have been traveling the same road, side by side. DESHiTMOi, TOROBAKA, Vertical Road: each of the choreographer’s works combines traditions and cutting-edge innovation, drawing upon the strength of deep roots united with the necessary evolution of a message anchored in today’s society.

The clear break from the past appears at the very beginning of the piece, because, for the first time ever, Akram Khan conveys the voice of a woman, the author of Until the Lions, a work in which women have been placed at the heart of an epic Indian tale, a role traditionally bestowed solely upon men. Akram Khan reveals his heroine, then gradually transforms her into warrior determined to fulfill her destiny, thus restoring her status, as well as giving her a major role in the Mahabharata tradition.

The female character Amba does not have the right to combat the one who has offended her. Yet a thirst for vengeance transforms her into a man-warrior, giving her the power to fight her battle and free herself. Above and beyond the narrative, the power of transformation is central to Khan’s new choreography. Triggered by the characters’ determination and obsession with their target, the desire to be at peace with our own ethics changes that which we take for granted and transformation becomes inevitable.

As is often the case, Akram Khan’s intention has an eerie echo in the business world: transforming traditional codes is more topical than ever. Transformation is a necessary step in development, as both a source of impetus and a springboard to renewal.

In the current economic context, Colas has chosen to proudly assert its corporate values, as a responsible, innovative and pioneering enterprise, by mobilizing its innovative talents to meet the need to reinvent ourselves.

Hervé Le Bouc, Chairman & CEO

Until the Lions - 2019 Trailer

Until the Lions - Trailer

Until the Lions - Rehearsals at Sadler’s Wells

Get an insight into the creative process of Akram Khan's latest production, Until the Lions, through a selection of rehearsal images taken by Jean-Louis Fernandez in May 2015

In the press

“Khan captures both the intimacy of the moment and its cosmic scale"

The Guardian

The Times Literary Supplement: "Silent warriors reborn" by Judith Flanders (22 Jan 2016)

This incandescent production transcends narrative in depicting with emotional clarity a world of core values – a world where love, loyalty, betrayal and regret play out starkly.


The Guardian: "Until the Lions review - lean, thrilling and beautiful" by Luke Jennings (17 Jan 2016)

Akram Khan dances what is likely to be one of his last roles in his supremely potent retelling of the Mahabharata.

Read more

The Guardian: "Akram Khan: I’m terrified that my body will give in" by Sarah Crompton (8 Jan 2016)

The choreographer performed in Peter Brook’s legendary stage production of The Mahabharata as a child. As he prepares a new dance version of the Indian classical stories, he explains why he has put women centre stage.

Read more

Evening Standard: Akram Khan, interview by Lyndsey Winship (2 Dec 2015)

Akram Khan is about to star in his major new work, but the end is in sight for him as a performer.

Read more

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