Sadler's Wells Spring 2018 Season Announcement

Posted on 9 October 2017

Akram Khan announces his final full-length solo production, to premiere in Sadler’s Wells’ Spring 2018 Season

One of the most celebrated and highly regarded dance makers working today, Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Akram Khan announces a new production, XENOS, which will mark his final performances as a dancer in a full-length piece. The production, commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, is inspired by Greek mythology with a particular focus on the myth of Prometheus, and by specific events from the First World War.

XENOS, co-produced by Sadler’s Wells, will premiere in 2018, sixteen years after the debut of Khan’s acclaimed first full-length production Kaash. Sadler’s Wells will present the UK premiere from 29 May - 9 June, as part of its Spring 2018 Season announced today, and the production’s international tour. The London performances mark the opening night of the 14-18 NOW commemoration season. Tickets for XENOS and the Spring 2018 Season at Sadler’s Wells are on public sale from Monday 6 November at 10am.

XENOS, meaning ‘stranger’ or ‘foreigner’, seeks to express tales of loss, hope and redemption, through a movement language that shifts between classical kathak and contemporary dance.

Working from a text by acclaimed playwright Jordan Tannahill, alongside his world-class team of collaborators Khan will draw on the story of a shell-shocked Indian soldier trapped in a trench during the First World War, through the lens of the myth of Prometheus - the Titan who stole fire and gave it to mankind. 

Reuniting with many of the stellar creative team from Khan’s celebrated 2011 solo work DESH, XENOS brings together dramaturg Ruth Little, award-winning lighting designer and Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Michael Hulls and costume designer Kimie Nakano. The set will be designed by Mirella Weingarten, and the score will be composed by Vincenzo Lamagna who created the music for Until the Lions and Khan’s award-winning Giselle for English National Ballet.

Khan will be joined on stage by five international musicians: percussionist B C Manjunath, vocalist Aditya Prakash, bass player Nina Harries, violinist Andrew Maddick, and saxophonist Tamar Osborn.

Akram Khan said “My interest lies in both the mythological body and the technological body. I want to explore our connection with our past and our future, investigating specific questions that confront me more and more every day, such as how does ‘myth’ play a part in today’s society? 

XENOS explores the central question at the heart of the myth – was Prometheus’ gift the blessing or the curse of mankind? And at its centre is a colonial soldier, one of over 4 million men mobilised on behalf of the British empire. 1.5 million of these recruits were Indian, mostly peasant-warriors from North and North-Western India, and they fought and died in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Many sepoys were buried abroad, while those who returned home, often mutilated and traumatised, were estranged from their own histories, homelands, and countrymen, becoming xenoi.

So, do we need to tell other people’s stories just in case they vanish? Who are the ‘other’ people? Are stories of human journeys told and retold again and again, so we can eventually learn from our mistakes? Who are ‘we’, a collective or many individuals? What makes us human? Are we still human?”

With an artistic vision that both respects and challenges Indian kathak form and contemporary dance, internationally renowned choreographer and dancer Akram Khan has created a substantial body of critically acclaimed work that ranges from classical and modern solos to cross-art form collaborations and company productions.

Recognised for the profoundly moving nature of his work, his reputation has been built on the success of imaginative and resonant productions such as Until the Lions, DESH, Gnosis and zero degrees, and collaborations with world-class artists and companies from other cultures and disciplines such as Juliette Binoche, Sylvie Guillem, Kylie Minogue, Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley, Hanif Kureishi, Steve Reich and English National Ballet. In 2012 he was chosen to create and perform in a dance section that paid tribute to absent friends and family at the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, set to Emeli Sandé’s rendition of Abide with Me.

This autumn Khan’s work has been seen on the Sadler’s Wells stage with English National Ballet’s reprisal of Giselle, and he will curate and perform in the theatre’s inaugural presentation of the Darbar Festival, the established celebration of classical Indian music and dance from 9-12 November. Darbar comes to Sadler’s Wells to offer a classical dance programme for the first time since the festival launched over ten years ago.

Also in November, he presents a new Channel 4 documentary Can We Live With Robots? (working title). In this unique project for the channel, he explores the impact robots and AI are having today on human relationships, and meets the cutting-edge robots of the future. Travelling from the UK to Japan and USA, he meets the robots already co-existing with humans, and the scientists harnessing artificial intelligence and the most advanced robotic mobility techniques to create eerily humanistic machines for the 21st century. Following his encounters, he interrogates his own reactions and improvises ideas to produce the film’s finale - a powerful new piece of dance with dancer Ching-Ying Chien that portrays the emotional tensions and connections in human-robot relationships.

The film is directed by Hannah Berryman and exec produced by Joe Evans and Neil Crombie for Swan Films. It was commissioned for Channel 4 by John Hay, Head of Specialist Factual and Madonna Benjamin.

Other highlights of Sadler’s Wells’ Spring 2018 season include: the 15 year anniversaries of two major festivals introduced under Alistair Spalding’s artistic directorship – the Flamenco Festival and the theatre’s acclaimed annual festival of international hip hop dance theatre Breakin’ Convention. The season also celebrates the 10th anniversary of one of Sadler’s Wells’ longest running productions Sutra, the award-winning collaboration between choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, sculptor Antony Gormley and 19 Buddhist monks from the Shaolin Temple in China, which marks its 200th performance during its return run.

From abroad, International Associate Company Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch performs Viktor and Canada’s most cutting-edge dance company Ballet British Columbia brings a triple bill of works by female choreographers: Sharon Eyal, Emily Molnar and Olivier Award-winning Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist, Crystal Pite, as part of a Dance Consortium tour.

UK Premieres include summer show Carmen La Cubana featuring Bizet’s classic score, with new orchestrations by Tony Award-winner Alex Lacamoire (Hamilton), Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan’s much-anticipated Formosa, and award-winning duo Cecilia Bengolea and François Chaignaud’s DFS – the result of Bengolea’s immersion in Kingston, Jamaica’s defiant dance scene, and Chaignaud’s study of traditional medieval vocal polyphony repertory, stretching back hundreds of years. Candoco Dance Company presents its commissioned double bill including Sadler’s Wells New Wave Associate Hetain Patel’s riotous Let’s Talk About Dis and the National Youth Dance Company’s latest cohort of talented young dancers performs a world premiere by Guest Artistic Director Sharon Eyal.

Sadler’s Wells Associate Company English National Ballet presents a mixed progamme featuring two works by one of dance’s leading figures, William Forsythe: the world premiere of a new work created for the Company and Approximate Sonata 2016, a series of pas de deux deconstructing the vocabulary of classical ballet, to a score by Thom Willems. Rambert stages its first full-length narrative work in more than 30 years - a two-act modern reimagining of the 17-century play Life Is a Dream created by Olivier Award-winning choreographer Kim Brandstrup.

Two of the theatre’s initiatives supporting emerging and early career artists are in evidence during the season with the return of Wild Card in the Lilian Baylis Studio. In March, the bespoke evening is curated by Adrienne Hart - who is also a participant in Sadler’s Wells’ Summer University programme - and her company Neon Dance. Special guests from different disciplines feature in the programme which encompasses dance, live music, video and lighting design. This event is part of Nils Fram’s Piano Day, a creative international celebration initiated by the acclaimed Berlin music producer and pianist.

For young audiences Newcastle-based balletLORENT returns with another of its fantastical dance-theatre fairy-tale adaptations, commissioned by Sadler’s Wells. Directed by Liv Lorent, and retold by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Rumpelstiltskin has a score by Doctor Who composer Murray Gold, costumes designed by Michele Clapton (Game of Thrones), and narration by actor Ben Crompton.

Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding said “The coming season is a reflection of our long-term relationships with artists like Akram Khan and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and our most recent Associate Artist Crystal Pite. Supporting artists at every stage of their career is at the heart of what we do at Sadler’s Wells, and this begins with our commitment to nurturing the next generation of talent. The world premiere of National Youth Dance Company is a personal highlight each spring season, and I’m delighted that the latest cohort of talented, ambitious young dancers will have the opportunity to work with Sharon Eyal, whose visceral choreography has absolutely marked her out as an artist to watch.”

The Monument Trust supports co-productions and new commissions at Sadler’s Wells

Tickets for the Spring 2018 season are on public sale from Monday 6 November at 10am via www.sadlerswells.com and 0207 863 8000. Priority booking opens to members from Wednesday 1 November.

For press enquiries contact Sadler’s Wells’ Head of Media Relations, Abigail Desch: Abigail.Desch@sadlerswells.com / 020 7863 8119 or Senior Press Manager, Caroline Ansdell: Caroline.Ansdell@sadlerswells.com / 020 7863 8125