They were digging themselves into death

By In Dance 27 min + 27 min

and Tamara Rojo teamed up to perform Dust as part of 's production Lest We Forget, which commemorates the centenary of the First World War. Akram Khan's work Dust is about the empowerment of women in the war, especially as they became the main workforce in the country.

The first inspiration, explored in the opening of Dust, are the trenches, and the men building them and living inside them.

The piece is inspired by two things. First, the concept of a trench, of the young men and old men all going into trenches, and disappearing. The other substantial part was inspired by the women. In WW1 there was a huge social shift towards women. They needed weapons made for the war, they needed a huge workforce. I felt this shift in role was interesting. They knew they would be letting go of fathers, husbands, and sons; they might lose them. Yet they were making weapons that would kill others' fathers, husbands, and sons. It didn't matter which side you were on – they both felt loss and death. But in order for someone to live someone else was putting their life on the line. That cyclical thing was what I wanted to explore.

Akram Khan

Akram Khan's background is the Indian classical dance kathak, and in contemporary dance.

When he worked with ENB on Dust, it was the first time he'd ever worked with a ballet company. What was it like to work with classical ballet dancers?

I admire classical dancers, because I was trained classically too. I was not trying to make English National Ballet's dancers into my dancers, but I was trying to find myself in their bodies. What ballet dancers can do is very different from what my own dancers do. It was very beautiful to see the transformation when they took my material and the essence of my aesthetic, and gave it something new. I also really wanted to emphasise the strength of the ballet body.

Akram Khan


The English National Ballet gave festival-goers a treat in 2014 when they performed Akram Khan's ‘Dust' in full at . Here are the video of the incredible event, with no wellies in sight.

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