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Choreography row: Akram Khan responds

Ching-Ying Chien and Akram Khan in Until The Lions. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Akram Khan has responded to an open letter signed by around 400 members of the dance community. The letter was a response to comments made by Khan in an interview with The Stage earlier this month.

I wanted to respond to both my colleagues from the dance community who have written a letter to me and to the wider community about some comments that I made in an interview that have been taken very much out of context. I sat down to do what I thought was a short interview about the new show and as part of it I was asked the question “Do we need more female choreographers?”

I answered: “We don’t need more female choreographers simply because they are female, we need them because they are brilliant at what they do”. Why did I say this? For the first five years of my career I had a sneaking suspicion that I was getting work as a dancer and choreographer because I ticked a box for people. There was a creeping sense of tokenism about it and that my racial background was getting me jobs. As this was happening I had the words and advice of my fiercely feminist mum ringing in my ears. “Akram, success should come for you on merit and because of your skills, not because of your race, colour, gender or age”. So I have tried to live my life both professionally and personally with that advice at its core. I am believer in talent getting its just reward.

If the comments that I made, that have been taken in isolation and out of their proper context, have caused offence, I sincerely apologise. However, I would hope that the work I have done throughout my career to help support anyone with talent would demonstrate to those that don’t know me well, and to my colleagues in the dance industry that do know me, that those comments are simply not where my heart lies.

This is clearly a debate that needs to be had, and one that has been running for some time. But let’s do it collectively, and in the right arena. Let’s stand together and fight for the art form that we all love so much.

– Akram Khan

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