The celebrated choreographer's new documentary, The Curry House Kid, shows his own cautious optimismby Rebecca Liu / April 26, 2019 / Leave a comment
Dancer and choreographer Akram Khan has had a busy year. Since premiering his final solo show last year, he has won a Laurence Olivier Award for his contributions to dance, signed on to choreograph a new full-length production with the English National Ballet, and developed a documentary film with Channel 4, The Curry House Kid, an exploration of the histories and futures of the curry houses on London’s Brick Lane.
What’s more, these are just a few of the achievements in his career. As one of the most celebrated names in the British dance world, he is also known for venturing outside its rigid boundaries: he choreographed a segment for the London 2012 opening ceremony, worked with Kylie Minogue to develop her Showgirls world tour, and has collaborated with artist Anish Kapoor, actress Juliette Binoche, and writer Hanif Kureishi.
People vest a certain aura around accomplished artists. The idea of a ‘higher calling’ is often invoked—the notion that these artists are drawn to their careers through an act of near-spiritual intervention. What there ever such a moment for Akram Khan and dance? Not so much. “It happened as stages, it didn’t happen in one go… it’s like a marriage, no?” he jokes.
Khan and I are in a curry house in north London, where he is preparing for a photoshoot for his upcoming documentary, The Curry House Kid. Though billed as a documentary, the film is also deeply personal for Khan—he himself was born to Bangladeshi immigrants who ran a curry house in Wimbledon. His childhood was often spent negotiating the expectations of the local immigrant community (and of his parents) and his own interests. He remembers the pressure well: “with the doubts that people had around my community, everybody put a lot of fear into me.” He was told often that a dance career was “not really steady.”
Nevertheless, it was Kathak—a classical north Indian dance form—that made Khan first fall in love with dance. After appearing on stage for director Peter Brook’s production of The Mahabharata between the ages of 13 and 15, he felt gripped by an impulse to perform: “I couldn’t adapt to school so I went and trained in my parent’s garage and bunked school for a year.”…