Akram Khan Company and Rambert School collaborate on ‘Unplugged’ initiative, unveiling core values in dance education 

In rehearsal for Akram Khan's 'Jungle Book reimagined'. Photo by Ambra Vernuccio.
In rehearsal for Akram Khan's 'Jungle Book reimagined'. Photo by Ambra Vernuccio.

The esteemed Akram Khan Company (AKC) is set to rejoin forces with the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance for the second half of its Second Year rep project. Akram Khan MBE expressed his excitement, stating, “I am thrilled to be collaborating with the artistic team of Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance for the UK launch of a new AKC initiative, Unplugged, designed specifically for dance students.”

Khan’s collaboration with Rambert School is not merely a creative endeavour; it is grounded in shared values. Speaking about Rambert School’s artistic core, Khan emphasised that it resonates profoundly with his fundamental values and convictions. Acknowledging the legacy of the school, determined by Amanda Britton and a highly respected collective of teachers, many of whom are artists of depth.

Akram Khan's 'Jungle Book reimagined'. Photo by Ambra Vernuccio.
Akram Khan’s ‘Jungle Book reimagined’. Photo by Ambra Vernuccio.

Chief Executive, Principal and Artistic Director Amanda Britton and Deputy Principal Darren Ellis share, “The Repertory project at Rambert school is an opportunity each year for our second year students to work with contemporary choreographers and companies of the highest calibre that have pushed the boundaries of contemporary dance in some way. Past repertory has included extracts of Sir Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty and Highland Fling, Studio Wayne McGregor’s Entity and Russell Maliphant’s Fallen.”

This year is no exception, as Britton and Ellis express, “We are delighted that our current second year students have all had the opportunity to work with Akram Khan Company on three extracts of rep from Jungle Book reimagined, Kaash and Sacred Monsters. This is part of Akram Khan Company’s educational initiative called Unplugged. The repertory project enables the students to work intensively with an established company for several weeks restaging a piece. Through this, they gain invaluable knowledge about working at a professional level within the industry and, as well as allowing the students to learn through the process of re-staging and performing the work, it is an opportunity for them to immerse themselves in an in-depth dialogue with artists from the company and attain an enhanced understanding of the choreographer’s body of work.”

Introduced in 2023, Unplugged is a Legacy program for dance students. AKC productions are approached and shared through the lens of the choreographic material alone, bare from creative elements such as costumes, set and lighting designs to present the choreographic material in its raw form. This unique approach allows young dancers to dive into the choreographic ethos of Khan’s methods and experience a process-led transmission.

Akram Khan Company in 'Jungle Book reimagined'. Photo by Camilla Greenwell.
Akram Khan Company in ‘Jungle Book reimagined’. Photo by Camilla Greenwell.

The Unplugged initiative is underpinned by the core values of the Akram Khan Company: Courage, Curiosity, Caring, Collaboration and Connection. These values are integral to the artistic vision and collaborative spirit that Khan brings to his creations.

“I am excited to see the results of this transmission and the unique journey that will unfold for these aspiring dancers,” Khan adds, highlighting his anticipation for the impact of the collaboration on the next generation of dance artists.

In 2022, Khan, Mavin Khoo and members of the Akram Khan Company collaborated with Rambert School on the research and development of the production Jungle Book reimagined. This collaboration represented a full-circle moment as these accomplished alumni returned to mentor the next generation of Rambert School graduates. It is a testament to the enduring impact of dance education and the interconnectedness of artistic legacies.

Second year student Hannah Carey shares her thoughts, “The experience that we shared with the Akram Khan Company has been nothing less than inspiring, physically challenging and emotionally rewarding. We have learnt what it means to dance with intention and to always hold high regulars for the long lineage of dancers who have danced in the spaces before us, and those who will dance after us. We have been opened to the idea that practice is not just in the studio but also mirrored into our approach and appreciation for our daily life. Overall, it is a privilege to have been able to work with Mavin, Thomasin and Nico, and learn that the most important values in the company’s work are purity, honesty and vulnerability.”

In rehearsal for Akram Khan's 'Jungle Book reimagined'. Photo by Ambra Vernuccio.
In rehearsal for Akram Khan’s ‘Jungle Book reimagined’. Photo by Ambra Vernuccio.

Khan, a celebrated dance artist, has left an indelible mark on the arts over the past 22 years with productions like Jungle Book reimagined, XENOS and DESH. His work is characterized by a profound exploration of shared experiences, collaboration across disciplines and cultures, and a commitment to storytelling that is both intimate and epic. He has worked with the National Ballet of China, actress Juliette Binoche, ballerina Sylvie Guillem, choreographers/dancers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Israel Galván, singer Kylie Minogue and indie rock band Florence and the Machine, visual artists Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Tim Yip, writer Hanif Kureishi and composers Steve Reich, Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook and Ben Frost.

Recognised as an artist whose work is intelligent and profoundly moving, Khan’s career highlights also include contributing to the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, a moment that received unanimous acclaim for its artistic brilliance.

The collaboration stands as a beacon for the values of courage, curiosity, caring, collaboration and connection, inspiring the next generation of dance artists.

The Rambert School will present the Next Generation Festival on 1 July at Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, featuring Akram Khan’s Kaash, Sacred Monsters and Jungle Book, reimagined on Rambert School’s second year students. For tickets and more information, visit www.rambertschool.org.uk/get-involved/events/next-generation-festival-2.  

By Renata Ogayar of Dance Informa.

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