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Dancing with Akram Khan in the Big Dance

by Daniel Walsh
11 July 2016

Hi my name is Daniel, and I’m a third year in BA dance who has been taking part in this year’s Big Dance.

Big Dance is a biennial festival for dancing led by the Mayor of London in partnership with People Dancing and the Big Dance Hubs, a network of leading dance organisations across the UK. This year was such an exciting event, because it not only encourages everyone to dance, but world renowned choreographer, Akram Khan created the dance with our Department of Dance at Roehampton.

In November, Akram came to Roehampton and we began by learning the dance.  Then, we worked together to adapt the movement into two different versions so it could be performed by people across the world as part of the Big Dance Pledge.

When Akram walked into the studio on the first day, he explained the housekeeping rules and his intention for the dance piece. The thought behind his work was so interesting, because he said how we spend so much of our time within the digital world that instead, the movement would connect us all through the ritual of dance. The different movements also connected us to the earth, for example by cleansing our faces.

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After the choreography was created, we recorded it in tutorial videos so people across the globe could participate. Dancing in the tutorial videos was a valuable experience to understand what was required in filming to a tight schedule and to a high standard.

The process from creation to performance has been one which has changed the way I look at dance in the bigger spectrum. It showed me how dance can be accessed by anyone and how it can be used as an inclusive form of bringing people together and uniting them as one community.

After the tutorials were released, the opportunity arose to teach the pledge version to the University of Roehampton staff members, so we could perform with others across the world on the performance day on the 20th of May. This was my first time teaching choreography to members of the community.  Everyone turned up with enthusiasm and a willingness to learn which made the whole process enjoyable.

I also had the opportunity to perform the Big Dance in Trafalgar Square to kick off the Big Dance Festival with 1,000 other dancers on the 2nd of July.

Learning from one of the world’s most famous choreographer pushed me out of my comfort zone, for sure, but it was so worth it. Being a part of this process has opened up so many doors for my professional career. I have received an apprenticeship dance role within a dance company and will start straight after graduation.

A tip from me for new students, is take every opportunity you can. Without this amazing experience learning and teaching the Big Dance, I would not have been able to be where I am today.

To see a video of the Big Dance performance day click here.

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Daniel Walsh with other Roehampton dance students,
working with Akram Khan on choreographing the Big Dance 2016

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