Royal Conservatoire of Scotland announces honorary doctorates 2024

Akram Khan MBE. Photo by Camilla Greenwell.
Akram Khan MBE. Photo by Camilla Greenwell.

A dancer and choreographer described as one of the most visionary artists of his generation, whose company is regarded as one of the most innovative in the world. A boundary-breaking actor, director and activist celebrated for a fearless approach to theatre-making and creating a space for diverse voices to be heard. And a singer-songwriter who achieved a cult following and critical acclaim after her music was rediscovered.

Three pioneering artists will be celebrated alongside the class of 2024 at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s summer graduation. Artistic director, choreographer and dancer Akram Khan MBE; actor, theatre director, activist and RCS drama alumnus Ivan Heng and musician Vashti Bunyan will receive honorary doctorates on Thursday 4 July.

Award-winning choreographer and dancer Akram Khan is one of the world’s most celebrated and respected dance artists. Acclaimed for his dance language rooted in the ancient Indian dance Kathak, his reputation has been built on the success of imaginative and highly accessible productions including Jungle Book reimaginedOutwitting the DevilXENOS and Until the Lions.

Previous collaborators include the actress Juliette Binoche, ballerina Sylvie Guillem, singer Kylie Minogue, indie rock band Florence and the Machine, visual artist Anisxh Kapoor, writer Hanif Kureishi, and composers Steve Reich, Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook and Ben Frost.

Ivan Heng is celebrated for boundary-breaking theatre work that reflects our contemporary concerns and gives voice to the marginalised. He is a passionate advocate for respect for diversity and freedom of expression. Ivan founded the internationally acclaimed Wild Rice theatre company in 2000. Under his leadership, the company has reached out to an audience of more than a million people and is at the vanguard of creating theatre with a distinctive Singaporean voice. The company built its iconic theatre in 2019, and its award-winning works have toured worldwide.

Vashti Bunyan is a singer and songwriter who wanted to bring acoustic music into mainstream pop in the mid-60s. When she didn’t find the success she’d hoped for, she walked away from music completely.  She was rediscovered in 2000 after the re-release of her 1970 album, Just Another Diamond Day, which has become a cult classic. After a gap of 35 years, her second album Lookaftering, produced by Max Richter, was released to critical acclaim. Vashti then produced and recorded Heartleap in her own studio and has since performed all over the world.

The trio will join around 300 students who will graduate across music, drama, dance, production, film and education at Scotland’s national conservatoire, named one of the world’s top 10 destinations to study the performing and production arts in the QS World University Rankings in March.

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said, “Akram Khan, Ivan Heng and Vashti Bunyan are three visionary artists who are being recognised for their exceptional contributions to the world of music, dance and theatre and the unique artistic imprints they have made on arts and culture. Their honorary doctorates acknowledge their incredible accomplishments and hope to inspire our graduating students, the next generation of artists, to push the boundaries of creativity.”

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