Outwitting the Devil
“As I arrive at the end of my dancing career, I have awakened to a new way of dancing. And that is to dance my ideas through the bodies of others, including older dancers, who carry their histories and complex emotional experiences within them. But what remains unchanged is my passion for exploring old and new myths in the context of our times.”
One of the seeds of inspiration for Outwitting the Devil is Leonardo Da Vinci’s iconic mural of The Last Supper. This image has haunted me since I first laid eyes on it as a child.
As a young British Bangladeshi boy growing up in South London, I remember seeing The Last Supper on a printed A4 page in my art class. I was told it was one of the most famous paintings in the world, and was asked to draw my own version of it. I now realise that at the time I was uncomfortable and confused by the depiction. I could not see anything of myself in it, or of the culture and religion I grew up in. It was foreign to me. Or perhaps, I was foreign to it. It did not reflect me, or the people in my street – who came from many different cultures – in any way I could relate to.
Many years later, I stumbled across another version of The Last Supper, by Australian artist Susan Dorothea White. White’s work was titled The First Supper. The painting portrays 13 women from all regions of the world. The figure in the position of Leonardo’s Christ is an Aboriginal woman, and the only white woman in the painting sits in the same position as Judas, the betrayer.
This radical interpretation astonished me, and gave me permission to free myself from the classical version. And in this new, anti-colonial depiction, I recognised an artist’s journey and challenge to convention which was parallel to my own. Ever since I entered the classical Indian dance world, I have been searching for a way out.... or perhaps more truly, I was searching for a new way in.
– Akram Khan, August 2018
Artistic Director/Choreographer : Akram Khan
Dramaturg : Ruth Little
Lighting Designer : Aideen Malone
Visual Designer : Tom Scutt
Original Music Score and Sound Design : Vincenzo Lamagna
Costume Designer : Kimie Nakano
Writer : Jordan Tannahill
Rehearsal Director : Mavin Khoo
Dancers : Ching-Ying Chien, Andrew Pan, Dominique Petit, James Pham, Mythili Prakash, Sam Pratt
Producer : Farooq Chaudhry
Technical Manager : Tina Fagan
Production Manager : Florian Stagliano
Project/Tour Manager : Mashitah Omar
Supported by Arts Council England
Akram Khan is an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells London and Curve Leicester