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Making A (da:ns) Scene: Storytelling Across Borders

Farooq Chaudhry of London-based Akram Khan Company on bridging cultures through dance

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Published: 24 Sep 2020


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That's what art and culture does—it brings us together…. It connects us. And it creates that sense of belonging and a sense that we have a common narrative somehow.

Farooq Chaudhry, co-founder and executive producer of Akram Khan Company

When Farooq Chaudhry retired from dancing, he decided to build a new relationship to his chosen art form, as a producer.

Born in Pakistan and raised in London, Farooq Chaudhry spent his youth trying navigate his experience of feeling marginalised — “an incredibly difficult and traumatic experience”, he shared candidly with Anita Kapoor, the host of this episode. 

Dance, when he discovered it, became a bridge for him, a way to forge connection amidst alienation. In this art form, he found diversity and community. And when he became a producer after 15 years as a professional dancer, he continued this exploration of difference, and its ability to catalyze new revelations and profound connection. 

As the co-founder and executive producer of Akram Khan Company, he has sought out collaborations with artists from diverse cultures and disciplines. He has also pushed himself to develop his craft further, by taking on the role of creative producer for English National Ballet from 2013 to 2017, and as the international creative producer for China's national dance icon Yang Liping. 

As Farooq puts it, a producer has a creative view and voice that need to be developed through projects of diverse scales and aspirations, in much the same way that an artist would. In this episode, he shares more about his foundational epiphanies, the importance of fuelling artistic ambition with risk, learning the right lessons from failure, and why arts leaders and funding institutions need to learn a new language of love. 

As the world navigates a new era shaped by both pandemic and social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, he believes arts companies also need to find the courage examine their own legacies, and engage in some creative destruction—so new bridges can grow, and new connections forged, for this traumatic age of profound alienation.

About Farooq Chaudhry

Farooq Chaudhry, co-founder and Producer of Akram Khan Company, plays a key role in forming innovative business models to support Akram Khan’s artistic ambitions as well as offering creative support during the development of Khan’s projects. Chaudhry is a witness of the School for Social Entrepreneurs and on the advisory board of Global Future. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged him in a list of the world’s top hundred cultural actors and entrepreneurs in 2008. In addition to his work for Akram Khan Company, Chaudhry founded Skye Blue Productions in 2014 to support emerging artists and in 2016, he became the International Creative Producer for China’s national dance icon Yang Liping. Between 2013-2017, he was the Producer for English National Ballet. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from De Montfort University for his services to dance in 2014. In 2018, Chaudhry became the Course Consultant for the new MA Dance Producing and Management at London Studio Centre and Goldsmiths University. In Sept 2018, Chaudhry became the Co-Artistic Director of PECDA (Prakriti Excellence in Contemporary Dance Awards) in India. In 2019, Chaudhry was awarded an OBE for his services to Dance and Dance Production and was appointed a Tate Artist Trustee and CEO and Creative Director for China House Arts – London.

About Anita Kapoor

Anita Kapoor is a presenter, emcee, facilitator, and a personal transformation specialist for events, galas, discussions, panels and inclusivity awareness circles. She is the creator and host of a COVID-19 #stayhome self awareness series Beyond Chaos, which aired once a week on Instagram Live during lockdown in Singapore, and shareyourvoice.world, a platform for collected audio stories from across the world within lockdown and beyond to be heard and shared. Her 2019 client roster includes TED, Asia’s 50 Best Bars and Talks, Michelin Guide Singapore, Singapore International Film Festival, Women in Tech, Viacom, Singapore Tourism Board, Lazada, Patek Philippe, Samsung, Credit Suisse and Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative. 2020 has seen her work with UOB and PSA on to be released voiceover projects, with Linkaja Indonesia to coach employees digitally on women’s empowerment for Kartini Day, with Shopify to coach employees on "finding our voice and speaking our truth" during their month-long unity festival Shopify Together, with Samsung on their current Female Gamechangers video series, and as a personality with Lancome in the activation around their 2020 Genifique serum Live Your Strength campaign, end August to end September 2020. Her work with associations and advocacy includes women, elders, mental health and LGBTQI+ sectors through AWARE, Mental Health Film Festival, Habitat for Humanity and Pink Dot. She is a two-time TED speaker—TEDxWomen and TEDxProctor & Gamble—and she was the in-patient subject and narrator for social documentary Nursinghomes.sg which explored the state of elder care in Singapore. Anita was born in Mumbai and has lived in Singapore since she was seven. The Lion City is home.

Making A (da:ns) Scene

Curated as part of da:ns festival, this podcast series gathers the insights and expertise of practitioners, producers and writers from Singapore, Asia and the rest of the world. Listen to illuminating conversations across a range of topics about culture, society and the world we live in, centred on a love for dance and movement.


Storytelling Across Borders Full Transcript

da:ns online

A reimagined da:ns festival 2020 invites you to discover movement across diverging mediums – through your body and from your screen, from 12 – 31 October.

Get up and move

da:ns festival 2020

A reimagined da:ns festival 2020 invites you to discover movement across diverging mediums – through your body and from your screen. Free your mind and explore dance in its varied forms and expressions with thought-provoking new works, illuminating conversations, introductory videos and more.

12 – 31 Oct 2020
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