News: London 2012 - Isles of Wonder

Monday 30 July 2012

Akram Khan & dancers in 'Abide With Me', Olympic Opening Ceremony. Photo: Shimelle Laine.

Akram Khan brought contemporary dance to the centre of the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony on Friday.

His brief for the section he created in Danny Boyle’s Isles of Wonder was Mortality. It was preceded in the show by a montage of memorial photos, including victims of the July 7 bombings (which happened in 2005 the day after the announcement that London had won the bid to become the host city for the 2012 Olympics) and was performed to a setting of Abide With Me , sung by Emeli Sandé. Khan danced in the piece himself, alongside fifty professional dancers and a nine year old boy.

“Working with Danny and his team on the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games has been an exciting and humbling experience,” he said after the performance. “I was daunted but always felt honoured and proud. I have tried to reconnect our intimacy and creativity to this gigantic world, to all our roots and to our hopes for the future. It seems almost natural for arts and sports to sit side by side: in both we desire to test the very limits of what we’re capable of doing. In sports human endurance, in arts human imagination.”

At a press conference the following day Khan said he was “disheartened and disappointed” to find the American broadcaster NBC cut his part of Isles of Wonder from their coverage, choosing to show an interview with US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps instead. It was the only part of the show to be cut.

Akram Khan was part of Boyle’s ‘key team’ for Isles of Wonder along with choreographers Temujin Gill (Associate Artist at Greenwich Dance, ex-Jiving Lindy Hopper and founder of Temujin Dance), Kenrick H2O Sandy (founder and co-Artistic Director of Boy Blue Entertainment), co-choreographer Sunanda Biswas (B-Girl and founder of Flowzaic, the UK’s first all-female breaking crew) and Movement Director Toby Sedgwick (former actor, movement director on Frankenstein and War Horse at the National Theatre).

Sandy was responsible for a sequence in part of the programme depicting a typical Saturday night out. He choreographed a huge group of teenagers and young people in their early twenties in a love story. The dedication the group showed in perfecting their roles was widely recognized. Danny Boyle said ‘We set out to inspire them, but they inspired us.’

Isles of Wonder is available on the BBC iplayer until Sat 4 August.
Watch here

Graham Watts writes for many publications including DanceTabs and Dancing Times. He is Chair of the Critics’ Circle Dance Section.

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