Imaginatives Bodies: Dialogues in Performance Practices
by Guy Cools, Valiz
1 November 2016

Imaginative Bodies contains a series of in-depth conversations with dancers and choreographers, composers, visual artists, Hip Hop artists, dramaturgs, a lighting designer and a puppeteer. The overall theme is defined by the body, both in relation to the place it takes in the artist’s work, and in relation to wider debates on the body in philosophy, science, medicine, anthropology, and the arts. Depending on the affinities of the artist, a more specific theme has been defined for each dialogue, ranging from poetics to politics, from mythology to ecology, from intercultural studies to conflict management. The associative chains of thoughts of these talks give an intimate insight into the creative process, inspirations, sources, identity, and ways of collaborating. It is through the sentient body that we experience, know and imagine. Imaginative Bodies reaffirms the central position of the body in many artistic practices.

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Decolonizing Immersion
by Royona Mitra, Performance Research
20 October 2016

This article decolonises hitherto Anglophonic theorising of the audience phenomenon of immersion by disassociating it from the participatory and interactive nature of immersive theatre practices, and locating it instead in the reception of contemporary British dance. It argues that by looking to rasa, the art reception theory as laid out in the Natyashastra (an ancient Indian dramaturgical treatise), immersion can also be theorised and experienced as an embodied and psycho-physical state that transpires between any audience, any artist and any piece of art that is premised on gestural codes of communication, regardless interactive participation.

In order to exemplify this argument, the article draws on two case studies from the field of contemporary British dance: Desh (2011) by the British-Bangladeshi dancer and choreographer Akram Khan and Yesterday (2008) by the Israeli choreographer Jasmin Vardimon. While distinct in many ways, Desh and Yesterday embody shared themes and aesthetic in the forms of border-identity politics, character transformations through body-markings and intermediality. Through comparative analyses the article argues that in these pieces, audiences can experience immersion, but it is not through physical interactivity as championed by immersive theatre practices. Instead, here, immersion is triggered as an embodied state, accessed from within the audience’s interiorities and attuned-ness to twenty-first global migration politics, enhanced by their first hand lived knowledge and/or second hand mediatised awareness of what is at stake for bodies at borders, vis-à-vis volatile migrant identity-politics.

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‘In-between Dance Cultures: On the Migratory Artistic Identity of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Akram Khan’
by Guy Cools, Valiz
1 December 2015

The respective artistic universes of Belgian-Moroccan Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and British-Bengali Akram Khan are largely built around their identity in-between dance cultures. Dramaturge Guy Cools, who accompanied both, situates the work of these prolific contemporary choreographers within the larger critical debate on the (post-)modern and (post-)migrant identity. With a uniquely privileged insight into their creative practices, Cools details some of their iconic choreographic pieces. He also shows how they invent a new and much-needed social imagery for present-day ways of living in a globalized environment. As such,

In-between Dance Cultures offers a complementary view on questions of cultural identity, taking the contemporary dancer’s somatic awareness and knowledge of the body as its starting point.

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‘Akram Khan: Dancing New Interculturalism’
by Royona Mitra, Palgrave Macmillan
3 November 2015

Through seven key case studies from Khan’s oeuvre, this book demonstrates how Akram Khan’s ‘new interculturalism’ is a challenge to the 1980s western ‘intercultural theatre’ project, as a more nuanced and embodied approach to representing Othernesses, from his own position of the Other.

‘Akram Khan: Dancing New Interculturalism’ won the 2017 De la Torre Bueno Prize.

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Akram Khan Company Archive at V&A

Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)’s Theatre and Performance Department holds an Akram Khan Company Archive which could be accessed by the public on site in London.

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