27th November 2014

A Thousand Faces

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A Thousand Faces is a bold new piece of dance theatre from Amina Khayyam Dance Company, an organisation that uses the classical Indian danceform of Kathak to present contemporary stories, in particular women’s stories, from around the world.

Presented in association with Sampad  and mac Birmingham, the premiere of A Thousand Faces uses Kathak’s abhinaya (narrative technique that helps to engage the audience towards a particular sentiment, or rasa), combining it with mime and puppetry, to present the story of women who are often caught up within cultural expectations and discriminately attacked because of their gender.

The production examines perceptions of beauty and glamour and how they can they can have an effect on violent attacks and abusive behavior towards women. Performed by three women and one man, the production specifically aims to raise awareness of acid violence against women.

Amina Khayyam says
“Acid attacks against women are a worldwide phenomenon and are not restricted to any race, religion or region. Cases of attacks have been reported in the UK and occur in many countries in Asia, Africa, the West Indies and the Middle East. Many cases go unreported and with little or no access to reconstructive surgery, survivors are terribly scarred — both physically and emotionally. However reported assailants, typically a husband or someone close to the victim, usually receive minimal to no punishment from the state”.

Amina’s concern about acid attacks led her to connect with Acid Violence Survivors Trust International when she presented an earlier form of the show in London. She continues:

“The charity’s director, Jaf Shah, told us a lot about the history of violence against women and I was quite shocked by the statistics. I want audiences to see _A Thousand Faces so that we can raise awareness that acid violence is happening on our doorsteps in the UK, as well as around the world in less developed countries”.

Amina Khayyam is a regular visiting artist at mac birmingham, where she has previously presented the experimental Laal Shaari, which combined live art process with Kathak movement and her highly-acclaimed interpretation of Lorca’s Yerma. She has also appeared at the mac in Sonia Sabri’s Red and zeroculture’s production of Find Me Amongst The Black.

Presented in association with mac birmingham and Sampad. This event is part of mac birmingham’s multi-buy offer

Choreography and principal performer
Amina Khayyam

Jane Chan (dancer) Harmage S. Kalirai (actor)

Debasish Mukherjee (Tabla), Lucy Rahman (vocal),
Amrit Lohia (sarangi & vocals)

Lighting and production
Stuart Walton

Creatively co-produced in collaboration with zeroculture

There will be a post show Q&A with Amina Khayyam and Jaf Shah from Acid Survivors Trust International.

Q&A with Amina Khayyam about A Thousand Faces

What inspired you to make A THOUSAND FACES?

Amina Khayyam: Akademi approached me a while ago to do a Kathak performance at Rich Mix as I am from Bangladesh. Rather than doing a classical piece of dance, I decided to do something that meant something to me. Growing up in Bangladesh I was very aware of the acid attacks against women – for instance, if a boy liked a girl and the girl said she wasn’t interested in him, he would throw acid at her. It made me think I would never dare to look at a man. So my take on that, was what has the country’s independence given the women of Bangladesh? I took on the subject, made it a work-in-progress and initially performed a version of it with three dancers. But then we managed to get some funding and the piece is brand new although the subject and the name are the same. The word ‘independence’ interests me too — the men still run the country and society, what they say goes — and violence against women is on the rise.

Have you worked with acid attack victims around the world?

Amina Khayyam: Not directly but our connection is Jaf Shah who is London’s executive director of Acid Violence Survivors Trust International. When we first presented A Thousand Faces at the Cockpit Theatre in London, it was during the Domestic Violence Awareness project. They had invited Jaf to come and talk so it was an amazing and eye opening time for us. He talked about how the charity started, about the history of violence against women, statistics and more. Because it happens mainly in developing countries where there are very different rules, it’s much harder to get justice or take someone to court. One of the things the charity is trying to do is to make it harder to actually buy acid and we want to bring elements of reality into A Thousand Faces and hopefully raise money in the future. I work regularly at sheltered homes, with communities and run workshops around the subject and I’m keen to do more.

What do you hope to achieve with this production?

Amina Khayyam: I want people to feel disturbed about the extent of the problem. We think it’s just happening in the developing countries but it’s also on our doorsteps here in the UK. In the show we have one actor because I want people to also see the situation from the male point of view and what makes them do it.

About Kathak dance

Kathak is fundamentally a storytelling form that traces its origins to the nomadic bards of ancient northern India, known as Kathakaars or storytellers. Its form today contains traces of temple and ritual dances, and the influence of the bhakti movement. There are three major gharanas (or schools) of Kathak from which performers generally draw their lineage: the gharanas of Jaipur, Lucknow and Varanasi, each developed from the respective courts of Rajput, Oudh and Varanasi. Today, in the UK, Kathak is undergoing another transformation, as result of its meeting with British culture. It has absorbed, as well as confronted, much of its political and cultural baggage, creating a unique gharana in its own right. Artists such as Nahid Siddique, Sonia Sabri and Akram Khan have helped push kathak to a new audience base in this country.

About Amina Khayyam Dance Company

Amina Khayyam Dance Company (AKDC) is a touring company that uses Kathak as the core narrative in making new work; adding to it other media and forms such as theatre, live art, and technology. Led by Amina Khayyam, the Company treats Kathak as a contemporary form, transcending any ‘classical’ or ‘modern’ precepts to its approach and using the dance form’s unique vocabulary to tell new and urgent stories of global importance. AKDC is particularly concerned with issues that affect marginalised women – not just from the mainstream but from within their own communities.

About Amina Khayyam

Born in Sylhet, Bangladesh, Amina trained in Kathak in the UK, initially with Alpana Sengupta, and later from one of Kathak’s finest exponent Sushmita Ghosh, under whose guidance she made her professional debut In 2001 at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre. Her performance ranges from classical Kathak, in which, she has received high accolades for her Abhinaya, to multi-media performances such as the principle performer in the Akademi/South Bank’s outdoor spectacle Escapade and in International Arts’ and Forum for Laboratory Theatres of Manipuri’s production of Macbeth-Stage of Blood on the River Thames.

She has toured extensively both nationally and internationally with several companies including Sonia Sabri, and has worked with reputable dance choreographers such as Nahid Siddiqui, Kumudini Lakhia, Darshan Singh Bhuller, Filip Van Huffel, Jonathan Lunn etc.: Amina’s own choreography is fast gaining critical stature. She makes new work using Kathak as the main core of a piece, but uses cross-form mediums in her narrative. In Laal Shaari, which was selected for ROH2 Firsts, she used live art approaches to controversially subvert the Kathak form. That creative approach was also evident and used in her last pure form piece — ONE, commissioned by the Musee du quai Branly, Paris.

Photo: Tahmina Begum.