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Amina Khayyam Dance Company and The Edinburgh Fringe Festival – What's on Hold?

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival would have opened this week but for the pandemic. Among those due to perform was Amina Khayyam Dance Company, with two works at two venues. These are now on hold, but her new work and projects continue to give voice to and engage with marginalised women. We asked her about them.

WHAT HAD YOU planned to take to the Festival this year, and why?

It would have been an exciting and extremely busy period for AKDC, taking two productions to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

The first – ONE – was to play at Dancebase: a solo piece connecting the cyclical structure of South Asian classical arts with a world view on issues of contemporary migration. This was to be performed by myself with musicians including tabla player Debasish Mukherjee, cellist Iain McHugh and Jane Chan on parhant (recitation of bols).

The second was to be Rise & Fall at Summerhall: a new work controversially examining the elevation of Aung San Suu Kyi as an iconic model of struggle for democracy and human rights, but who recently appeared at The Hague to answer charges of genocide – marking an extraordinary fall from grace. Using digital costume and kathak, Rise & Fall sets to explore the western illusion about the circumstances of the Burmese leader.

Have they been postponed until next year? Have the venues automatically asked you back?

In principle, yes – but the venues themselves have no certainty about any future planning in Scotland.

What is special about performing in Edinburgh? Is the audience different there? 

The buzz of the Festival, the opportunities, the people you meet and the pressure of selling your show on a daily basis, as well as performing daily for a whole month.  Every night the show evolves, and I love the challenge of pushing my body and physicality to its demands. With each performance the show matures, and as my work is character-led it is such an exciting way to explore characters. Even after a month of performing I still feel I have more to discover... it really is a unique experience. As for audience – you never know who’s going to come and see you, it’s always exciting to have diverse audiences for the work and responses have always been amazing.

But essentially – Edinburgh is a market-place and you go there to sell your show!

How often have you performed in Edinburgh?

This would have been the third time the company was to perform there – we like to go every other year.

What was your first experience of Edinburgh?

AKDC's first experience was Yerma in 2015. It was an experience like no other as we performed twenty-two shows. It was such a challenge as the piece is extremely physical. But the reward was great, we had great reviews and audiences.

How have you chosen the works you have taken? Were they with the Edinburgh audience in mind?

The shows are selected for showcase opportunities that can benefit from a national and international audience.

What have you been doing during the Corona period?

AKDC received emergency funds from ACE to make a digital project. Keeping in line with the company’s work we are making a piece highlighting the rise of domestic violence during lockdown. The project is called 'Catch The Bird Who Doesn’t Want To Fly' – it is to be released shortly. 

I have also been providing private videos with movement and exercise for the women’s groups that I work with in London, Birmingham, Luton and Woking. The women I work with are extremely vulnerable and I wanted to keep them engaged both physically and for their mental well-being. 

I personally have to keep up my own physical training to maintain the stamina and strength required to perform the company’s work – from being a regular performer to no performances has been a challenge.

Training every day was a challenging process as I had no access to my usual studio space and was practising alone.  The lockdown has been an awful period in terms of so much tragedy in our communities – but at the same time it has also given a time to be self-critical and try to improve and explore further…

And I am also writing a book on my outreach work.