Dancer Akram Khan on choreographing rock band Florence + The Machine’s new video

The video begins with singer Florence Welch, and several other women draped in colourful veils, standing still. Soon, they began to dance and shed their veils as the video progresses. Their actions are reflected in a pool of water, which lends an eerie air to it. This choreography in indie rock band Florence + The Machine’s new song, Big God, is courtesy award-winning dancer Akram Khan.

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Born in London to a Bangladeshi family, Akram began learning Kathak at the age of seven. He has since gone on to establish his own dance company and has been appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to dance. This is his first collaboration with Welch and the video’s director, Autumn de Wilde. “Florence was really keen to do something with dance and her music. For the choreography, we spent some time in a studio, and the first thing I did was to ask Florence to improvise, to move while she sang Big God. She improvised thrice, and each time it was different. She loves dancing and moving her body. She’s physically very expressive,” Akram says, over a phone call from London.

He filmed the process and incorporated a lot of her movements into the final choreography. “Since there are trained dancers in the video, I was careful that it shouldn’t look like Florence couldn’t do my material. The language and vocabulary [of the dance] had to come from her. That way, it’s more organic and honest,” Akram adds. 

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The dance prep took a week and the filming was wrapped up in a day. It was an intense shoot and Khan is all praise for Autumn. “Even though she was directing it, she was really collaborative in her process,” he says. 

Akram is currently touring with his solo piece, Xenos, which is about an Indian soldier serving the British Empire in the first world war. “So many colonial soldiers died for the Empire, fighting a war that wasn’t even theirs. History doesn’t acknowledge them,” he says. He hopes to bring Xenos and a few other works to India in the future.

Image courtesy: Max Barnett

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