Dance like a butterfly, sting like a bee: why Akram Khan embraced MMA

"I’ve never felt so intimidated in my life,” the choreographer and dancer Akram Khan says. “I was in a room with all these alpha males who were trained to kill, and they were playing with me, like a cat toying with a mouse.”

As a seasoned performer with more than 30 years’ experience, Khan is accustomed to the intimidation of an audience and the charged bodies of his fellow dancers. Yet, for a new Channel 4 documentary, he decided to delve into something darker that has followed him throughout his life: violence.

“To experience life, sometimes you have to be very close to the threshold of death,” he says on a video call from his home. “From the safety of our room, we can feel that excitement through watching another person go through this danger.” A fascination with this voyeuristic inclination led Khan into the world of MMA – mixed martial arts fighting – and “how the violence in trained fighters compared to the violence as a dancer”.

Read the interview in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 06/11/20]