First published on 22 May 2012. Updated on 10 Dec 2012.
What’s Vertical Road about?
The fundamental difference between contemporary dance and ballet is that contemporary dance is like poetry, while ballet is like novels. A novel has a clear sense of characters – a beginning, a middle and an end. Poetry is much more compressed in terms of its meanings, much more multi-layered, has many more metaphors and many more symbols. The concept of Vertical Road is the journey between Earth and heaven, real life and the spiritual life, between reality and illusion.
What role did you have in the creation of this production?
Akram and I came up with the concept to look at angel myths from around the world. This transformed into the spiritual journey of Vertical Road. We have a reputation for work that represents many different cultures and disciplines. I was a dancer in my previous life – professional for 15 years, and I set up the company with Akram in the year 2000 – so we’ve got this really strong bond with each other, we’re pretty much joined at the hip.
We’re Londoners, and being a Londoner you’re really living in a melting pot, and right on the edges of society – some of the roughest parts of it, and some of the most beautiful parts of it. So, we’re products of a society that is looking to say many things simultaneously.
How has the audience reaction been?
It’s been a spectacular success. The production has been around the world, and had the most unbelievable reaction. Everyone seems to recognise something in the work that they can identify with.
What do you think Nitin Sawhney’s music adds to the performance?
Nitin and Akram have worked together for many years now. They have the ability to reference different cultures, really intelligently and sensitively. Nitin wrote the music alongside the creation of the dancers’ movement, so the music is interwoven, representing what happens on stage.
It’s not wallpaper or a backdrop. It’s not just a score or a soundtrack. It really feels like it’s part of the journey. There is the use of tribal drums, strings, of voice and echo, and of earthly sounds like wind, rain and water. You’ve got this multi-layered composition that has a similar spiritual sensation to it.
What experience can the audience expect to have when they see Vertical Road?
People keep coming back to say it gives them a sense of how spirituality can be conveyed through dance.If you’re a human being who’s curious, who wants to see the world differently, and who loves storytelling, you should come and see Vertical Road. You should see it if you are someone who’s fascinated by spirituality. We want people to leave feeling something, to be touched, to think and feel, and to be challenged.
Tell us about Akram Khan’s previous shows in Singapore.
The first time we came to Singapore was in May 2004. We did the world premiere of a work called ma, which was co-produced by Singapore Arts Festival, then we came back for another performance in 2007. We’re really looking forward to returning to Singapore, and really happy to be doing the performance. Singapore has a very sophisticated public, which has been cultivated over the years with the festival. I’m really hoping that we can give you guys a good experience.