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Until the Lions
  • Asia Première

    "Thrilling and beautiful" ── The Observer, UK

    "Cosmic dance of destiny and revenge" ── The Guardian, UK

    Ancient Indian epic The Mahabharata re-envisioned
    Love and hate conjoined in a tumultuous work that cleanses the soul

    Akram Khan, winner of the UK's prestigious Olivier Award for DESH in 2012, launched his latest production, Until the Lions, at the London Roundhouse to great critical acclaim in January this year. Based on his ceaseless fascination with the classic Sanskrit poem, The Mahabharata, the celebrated Bangladeshi dancer-choreographer draws Amba, an unsung heroine in the male-dominated narrative, into the spotlight. Swirling limbs amid percussive dance sequences compellingly capture the transformation of the kidnapped princess as she moves from innocence to outrage and yearning, her tragic journey to self-immolation, and eventual reincarnation as Shikhandi, an androgynous warrior who seeks vengeance in a showdown with her abductor.

    As haunting harmonies and vocals suffuse the performance with a ritualistic aura, the trio of dancers summon up breath-taking technique in an enthralling display of energy and emotional intensity. Together with Karthika Naïr's thought-provoking scenario, Tim Yip's mistily symbolic ringed tree stump set and Michael Hulls' luminescent lighting, a dense and timeless tale of women's oppression and resistance to such a fate is stunningly drawn forth.
    Personnel and Cast
    • Director/Choreographer:
      Akram Khan
    • Narrative Concept/Scenario/Text:
      Karthika Naïr
    • Visual Design:
      Tim Yip
    • Lighting Design:
      Michael Hulls
    • Composers:
      Beautiful Noise (Vincenzo Lamagna) in collaboration with Sohini Alam, David Azurza, Yaron Engler, Akram Khan, Christine Joy Ritter
    • Dramaturg:
      Ruth Little
    • Dancers:
      Akram Khan, Chien Ching-ying, Christine Joy Ritter
    • Musicians:
      Sohini Alam, David Azurza, Yaron Engler, Vincenzo Lamagna
    • Producer:
      Farooq Chaudhry

    Photo credit: Jean-Louis Fernandez

    Co-produced by Roundhouse/Sadler's Wells London, MC2: Grenoble, La Comète Châlons-en-Champagne, Théâtre de la Ville/La Villette Paris, Danse Danse/TOHU Montréal, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, New Vision Arts Festival Hong Kong, Taipei Performing Arts Center, Movimentos Festwochen Wolfsburg, Brighton Festival 2016, Maison de la Culture d'Amiens, Concertgebouw Brugge, Le Manège de Reims Scène nationale, Holland Festival Amsterdam, Romaeuropa Festival, and Curve Leicester. Sponsored by COLAS. This production is a partial adaptation of Until the Lions:Echoes from the Mahabharata, a retelling in verse of The Mahabharata by Karthika Naïr (HarperCollins India, 2015 & Arc Publications UK, 2016).

    Artist's Facebook:
  • Masterclass

    A rare opportunity to step into the world of UK choreographer and performer Akram Khan, renowned for his characteristic blend of classic Indian kathak form and contemporary dance. Explore Khan's famous style as well as try out moves from Until the Lions. The workshop will be led by dancer Chien Ching-ying, who portrays Princess Amba in the production.

    Instructors: Chien Ching-ying, Christine Joy Ritter (Dancers)

    Quota: 30
    In English and Putonghua
    Suitable for participants aged 18 and above with professional dance training
    Participants are advised to wear comfortable clothes, socks and shoes

    Photo credit: Jean-Louis Fernandez

    Pre performance Talks

    Spend half an hour before the performance to learn from experienced art critics and cultural experts on how to appreciate the show.

    In Cantonese
    Free admission on a first-come-first-served basis

    Speaker: Daniel Yeung (Dance Critic)
    • 19.11 (Sat)
  • An Audio-visual Feast

    By Yu Shiu-chin
    Assistant Professor in the Department of Performing Arts, Shu-Te University, Taiwan

    Akram Khan, choreographer and dancer extraordinaire, has collected many international awards, taking him to the top of the world of dance. The UK artist of Bangladeshi descent is particularly renowned for productions exploring cross-cultural issues. He has received great acclaim for his productions with Belgium choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and French dancer Sylvie Guillem. DESH, which portrays his mixed feelings towards his heritage and homeland, brought him an Olivier Award.

    Khan's latest work, Until the Lions, is adapted from poet Karthika Naïr's book Until the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata, an original reworking of the Indian epic The Mahabharata. At the age of 13, Khan appeared in Peter Brook's reworking of this classic verse. Here, Khan provides the re-interpretation, focusing on the story of Prince Bheeshma's abduction of Amba, a princess from the kingdom of Kasi. Bheeshma kidnaps Amba on behalf of his stepbrother. When Bheeshma finds out the princess has already fallen in love with the King of Shalva, he releases her. But the King then shuns her. She turns to Bheeshma and asks him to marry her. Again she is rejected due to Bheeshma's vow of celibacy. Amba then swears vengeance for her plight. She burns herself to death and is reincarnated, becoming Shikhandi, a general in the Bharata war, and killing Bheeshma.

    With the dance performance's focus on the female perspective, Amba is shown to have a more tenacious character than Bheeshma. The princess is resolute in her successful transformation and reincarnation, and vengeful as a warrior. At the same time, the fusion of contemporary dance and classical Indian choreography inspired by the plot delivers intricate emotions and subtle asides, revealing both the sophistication and technical excellence of the dancers. As illustration, entangled bodies tug at the heartstrings, vividly portraying the taut twists and turns of this intertwined tale of love, hatred and revenge. The cast of Until the Lions is also star-studded, with Tim Yip, who received an Oscar for his art direction on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as visual designer and Olivier Award winner Michael Hulls as lighting designer.

    Throughout the work, Khan is sensitively precise in handling every emotion, whether anticipation, attraction, conflict, disappointment or rage while Yip's gigantic 360-degree tree stump set is certainly an eye-catcher. The result is a stunning and satisfying audio-visual feast embracing live performance, vocals, and music.

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