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29 February 2024

Khan brings Mahabharata story to the UAE

Khan fuses his Indian kathak heritage with Arabic and world music. (SUPPLIED)

By Staff Writer

A second collaboration with top international choreographer Akram Khan is to be staged by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) following last year's In-I, which featured Oscar-winning French actress Juliette Binoche.

Khan will perform Gnosis, a solo piece rooted in Akram's Indian kathak heritage and his interaction with Arabic and world music, in the capital on February 25 and 26 as part of Adach's World Stage programme.

Khan returns to his classical Indian dance roots with this new piece. Inspired by the Mahabharata story of queen Gandhari, who blindfolds herself for life to follow her blind husband, Gnosis explores the notion of inner knowledge and clouded vision, "seeing darkness and yet being blind to light".

It features additional choreography by Gauri Sharma Tripathi and Sri Pratap Pawar and is accompanied by world-class musicians from India, Japan and UK, including acclaimed Kodo drummer, Yoshie Sunahata.

The UAE will experience a special production, the result of a two-week stay in Abu Dhabi by Khan, during which he explored Arabic musical traditions and sounds and weaved these influences into his choreography. As a result of this, Akram will be joined on stage by two young UAE-based musicians who will play the oud and qanoon.

Khan is celebrated for the vitality and innovation he brings to cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary expression. A master of kathak or classical Indian dance, and an award-winning choreographer of contemporary dance, Khan is breaking boundaries between tradition and innovation, East and West.

His collaborators, in addition to Binoche, have included the National Ballet of China, ballerina Sylvie Guillem, singer Kylie Minogue, visual artists Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley and composers Steve Reich and Nitin Sawhney.

For 2011 the authority has commissioned Akram to create Vertical Road, an entirely new work inspired by the Middle East's storytelling legacy and the spiritual heritage of the region.

The work will be Khan's latest contemporary ensemble work and will continue his ambition to explore the interface between different cultures and creative disciplines with a host of performers and artists from around the world. It will premiere in October at Sadler's Wells, London, before embarking on an international tour.


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