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Press Release: Akram Khan Company launches new performance initiative at Sadler's Wells in June

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Akram Khan Company 

Portraits in Otherness 

Lilian Baylis Studio, EC1R 4TN

Tuesday 5 - Friday 8 June

Programme I – Maya Jilan Dong and Dickson Mbi: Tuesday 5 & Wednesday 6 June

Programme II – Ching-Ying Chien and Joy Alpuerto Ritter: Thursday 7 & Friday 8 June

Performances at 8pm

Tickets: £17 

Ticket Office: 020 7863 8000 or www.sadlerswells.com


Renowned dancer and choreographer Akram Khan, a Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist, and Akram Khan Company producer Farooq Chaudhry launch Portraits in Otherness. This new initiative receives its World Premiere in the Lilian Baylis Studio from 5 - 8 June.


Portraits in Otherness seeks to transfer the unique legacy and philosophy of Akram Khan Company. It allows promising early career dance artists the opportunity to choreograph and showcase solo works inspired by a unique blend of cultures, myths and rituals.


Presented in two programmes, four charismatic and talented choreographers are given the opportunity to inhabit the values of Akram Khan Company and develop their own highly distinctive work. Dickson Mbi presents Duende, a ritual of dance exploring the spirit of an artist, alongside Maya Jilan Dong with Whip, which takes inspiration from the folk dances of the Bai people. Joy Alpuerto Ritter performs BABAE, combining Philippine folk dance, classical training and hip hop, whilst Ching-Ying Chien showcases Vulture, an examination of the lifecycle, flaws and triumphs of humans through an animalistic lens.

The project also marks the first collaboration between Akram Khan Company and Peacock Contemporary Dance Company in China, which aims to support talented Chinese dancers and choreographers through domestic and international collaborations. Both companies share similar aspirations within the international dance community, and aim to nurture talents from their respective geographies.


Farooq Chaudhry, Producer of Akram Khan Company says, “Portraits in Otherness represents two important things to Akram and myself – giving back and contributing to the future of dance. We have identified four diverse, uniquely gifted early career artists whom we believe have something to say, with ‘otherness’ symbolising opportunity instead of marginalisation for them. We have provided each artist with the optimum artistic conditions to express their ideas, concepts and language with as much confidence and clarity at this fragile point in their careers – just as many people did for us almost 20 years ago. We do this with hope, faith and love, as without these, life nor art cannot flourish and transform us. We look forward to the stories they will tell in Portraits in Otherness and the many stories we believe they will continue to tell in years to come.”


Dickson Mbi also features in DanceWorks, a series of artist-led films which will premiere on BBC Four between Monday 7 – Thursday 10 May. This innovative partnership between Sadler’s Wells and the BBC gives viewers a unique insight into the world of contemporary and classical dance in Britain today. The episode Street to Stage, airing on Tuesday 8 May at 7.30pm, follows Mbi as he transitions from his street dance roots to contemporary dance, giving viewers a glimpse into the challenge of choreographing and performing Duende, the piece he has created for Portraits in Otherness.


Akram Khan is a Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist

Co-produced by Akram Khan Company, Sadler’s Wells, London and Peacock Contemporary Dance Company China


Listings information:


Akram Khan Company

Portraits in Otherness

Lilian Baylis Studio, EC1R 4TN

Tuesday 5 - Friday 8 June

Performances at 8pm

Tickets: £17

Ticket Office: 020 7863 8000 or www.sadlerswells.com

– ENDS –

Notes to Editors

Sadler's Wells is a world-leading creative organisation dedicated to dance in all its forms. With over three centuries of theatrical heritage and a year-round programme of performances and learning activities, it is the place where artists come together to create dance, and where people of all backgrounds come to experience it – to take part, learn, experiment and be inspired.

Audiences of over half a million come to its London theatres each year, with many more enjoying its touring productions at venues across the UK and around the world, and accessing its content through digital channels.

Sadler's Wells commissions, produces and presents more new dance work than any other theatre in the world, embracing the popular and the unknown. Since 2005, it has helped to bring over 160 new dance works to the stage, many of them involving its 16 Associate Artists, three Resident Companies and four Associate Companies – the most exciting talents working in dance today.

It also nurtures the next generation of talent through research and development, running the National Youth Dance Company and a range of programmes including Wild Card, New Wave Associates, Open Art Surgery and Summer University. Sadler's Wells' learning and engagement activities reach over 25,000 annually through programmes that take dance out into the community and invite communities into the theatre. Projects include community productions and the renowned Company of Elders, its resident over-60s performance group, while events range from pre and post-show talks with dance artists to classes, workshops and assisted performances.

Located in Islington, north London, the current building is the sixth to have stood on site since entrepreneur Richard Sadler first established the theatre in 1683. The venue has played an illustrious role in the history of theatre ever since, with The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and English National Opera having all started at Sadler's Wells.




Akram Khan is one of the most celebrated and respected dance artists today. In just over eighteen years he has created a body of work that has contributed significantly to the arts in the UK and abroad. His reputation has been built on the success of imaginative, highly accessible and relevant productions such as XENOSUntil the LionsKaashiTMOi (in the mind of igor), DESHVertical RoadGnosis and zero degrees.

An instinctive and natural collaborator, Khan has been a magnet to world-class artists from other cultures and disciplines. His previous collaborators include the National Ballet of China, actress Juliette Binoche, ballerina Sylvie Guillem, choreographers/dancers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Israel Galván, singer Kylie Minogue, visual artists Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Tim Yip, writer Hanif Kureishi and composers Steve Reich, Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook and Ben Frost. A career highlight was the creation of a section of the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony that was received with unanimous acclaim.

As a choreographer, Khan has developed a close collaboration with English National Ballet and its Artistic Director Tamara Rojo. He created the short piece Dust, part of the Lest We Forget programme, which led to an invitation to create his own critically acclaimed version of the iconic romantic ballet Giselle.

Khan has been the recipient of numerous awards throughout his career including the Laurence Olivier Award, the Bessie Award (New York Dance and Performance Award), the prestigious ISPA (International Society for the Performing Arts) Distinguished Artist Award, the Fred and Adele Astaire Award, the Herald Archangel Award at the Edinburgh International Festival, the South Bank Sky Arts Award and six Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards. Khan was awarded an MBE for services to dance in 2005.

He is also an Honorary Graduate of University of London as well as Roehampton and De Montfort Universities, and an Honorary Fellow of Trinity Laban. Khan is an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells, London and Curve, Leicester.



Co-founded in 2000 by award-winning choreographer Akram Khan and producer Farooq Chaudhry, Akram Khan Company has established itself as one of the foremost innovative dance companies, performing to sell-out audiences in leading festivals and venues around the world. Embracing Khan’s artistic vision that both respects and challenges tradition and modernity, the Company has become renowned for its intercultural, interdisciplinary collaborations, and has developed a significant range of works from classical kathak and modern solos to artist-to-artist duets and ensemble productions. A milestone in the Company’s journey was the creation of a section of the London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in 2012.

The Company has been showered with prestigious honours including an Olivier Award for DESH and a record-breaking six Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards. Akram Khan Company enjoys artistic association with Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, Curve in Leicester, and other leading venues and festivals around the world.




Peacock Contemporary Dance Company was founded in China in 2017. It was initiated by a donation from the arts foundation of China’s most iconic dancer and choreographer Yang Liping.

The Company is a non-profit venture whose vision is to nurture, produce and support talented Chinese dancers and choreographers through domestic and international collaborations. The Company’s central values are to experiment and take greater artistic risk, therefore encouraging innovation and new forward thinking processes.

The partnership with Akram Khan Company is Peacock Contemporary Dance Company’s first major international partnership and signals its commitment to excellence and world standard quality.



Dickson is a world-renowned dancer in the hip hop dance community. He is known for his remarkable popping skills, strong personality, powerful movement and positive attitude. He has won many major Popping competitions including: Juste Debout UK, BattleISM, KOD and the UK b-boy Championships. Together with his partner Brooke Milliner, he is committed to fostering new generations of dancers both within their battling crew Prototype – which won the major World Hip Hop Dance Championships – and with Fiya House a Popping crew. Together they have won countless competitions and are still winning. With a background in jazz, ballet and contemporary dance/ he trained at Lewisham College & London Contemporary Dance School, mentored by Stuart Thomas and Bim Malcomson.

Dickson won several choreographic awards and commissions: REVERB Award for Best Choreography 2015, MASDANZA Audience Award for Best Choreography 2016, National Theatre of Korea commission solo, Leave A Trace – CHVRCHES (Music Video) 2016 and OLMECA Commercial. He has featured in major TV commercial campaigns: BALMAIN X H&M 2016, AUDI E TRON 2014, and was the face for LUCOZADE REVIVE 2012. His work has been recognised nationally as he was nominated for three major dance awards: “Best Achievement in Dance” at the UK Theatre Award 2017, “Emerging Artist” and “Outstanding Male Performer (Modern)” at the National Dance Awards Critic Circle 2017.



Maya Jilan Dong is a Bai, an ethnic minority living in the Yunnan Province in southwest of China. Raised in a rural village she grew up with nature - earth, trees, water, fire and animals. In 2004 when Maya was 12, China’s iconic choreographer Yang Liping recognised her talents and invited Maya to join Yunnan Yang Liping Arts & Culture Company. Maya has danced in Yang’s most important works such as Dynamic YunnanUnder Siege, and Winter Peacock. She is one of the Company’s longest serving members.



Joy Alpuerto Ritter was born in Los Angeles and moved to Germany when she was four years old. She took her first ballet classes at the Ballettstudio Krain. Over a period of ten years she was trained in ballet and jazz, took part in dance competitions, ballet performances and shows with the Philippine and Polynesian Culture Dance group – led by her mother. In 2004 she graduated from Palucca Dance School and has been working mostly in Berlin ever since as a freelance dancer with choreographers including Christoph Winkler, Oxymoron Dance Company by Anja Kozik, Heike Hennig and Constanza Macras. Since 2005 she has dedicated her passion into the hip hop scene, practicing different styles including breakdance and voguing. She has participated in many dance battle events throughout Europe like Juste Debout, Defipayette, Voguing out, Funkin stylz and won several prices. In 2011 she was invited as a dancer to be part of the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour, an arena show by Cirque du Soleil, which toured to the USA, Canada and Europe. Since 2012 she has been working and touring internationally with Wangramirez and Akram Khan Company (iTMOi & Until the Lions). She was nominated as “Outstanding Female Dancer (contemporary)” at the UK National Dance Awards in 2017 for her performance in Until the Lions.



Ching-Ying Chien was born in Taiwan and graduated from the National Taiwan University of Arts. She has collaborated with choreographer Fang-Yi Sheu and has created work with numerous Taiwanese choreographers. Since 2013 she has been working with Akram Khan Company, devising material and performing in iTMOi (2013) and Until the Lions (2016). In 2017, she won the “Outstanding Female Performance (Modern)” award for her performance in Until the Lions at the UK National Dance Awards.

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