News: Akram Khan & Nitin Sawhney's Big Dance Pledge

Wednesday 6 January 2016 by Carmel Smith

A still from the Big Dance Pledge 2016. Choreography by Akram Khan

Big Dance, which has been taking place every two years since 2006, first in London, through the London Mayor’s Office – and then with the support of Arts Council England across the country – aims to get everyone involved in dancing and millions of people have taken part in its projects over that last ten years.

This year’s Big Dance Pledge has been choreographed by Akram Khan, with a an original music track by composer Nitin Sawhney. The choreography is available to groups – either to learn the orginal four minute version or develop their own version to suit their style, abilities and experiences of the themes of the work – which they are then invited to perform simultaneously across the world, this year on 20 May.

“It’s going to be an interesting process of creating a piece, then handing it over to people, handing it over to communities who’ll then transform it,” Akram Khan says. “It’s like planting a seed and that seed then takes root and grows into all the different trees. The more the original seed is transformed the more interesting it will be, so I’m interested to see how each new tree becomes different, yet you know that everything is connected to one seed, one idea…. This piece is not so much about a physical experience with others. But it’s about a sense that somehow we are all connected through one idea.”

Akram has created the choreography with three variations to enable groups of mixed abilities to perform together, incorporating seated movement and flexible options in each section of movement.

In composing the music Nitin Sawhney was also aware of the huge scale of Big Dance – “Because it’s about a lot of people working together it’s using quite epic sounds, quite orchestral, big sounds, but making it so that people can dance to it, he says. “From that point of view, it’s a universal sound. Instead of going with something that felt like popular music, we’ve gone with popular culture… As a result, the piece of music feels quite cinematic, it feels like there is a very powerful image that works. It feels like it’s got a strong narrative and a sense of storytelling.”

Resources are able online now; including tutorial films, a written teaching guide, the music track, documentaries and a participant certificate to download and view online. Free access is via registration on

Groups are encouraged to perform as part of the worldwide performance day on 20 May 2016 at 1pm or 7pm, local time, but are not restricted to one day and can be performed anywhere, at anytime – and group leaders can return to the website to add photos and video clips of their Big Dance Pledge creative process and performances.

Watch a clip of the choreography, performed by students at Roehampton University here

Find out more and sign up at

Image: a still from the Big Dance Pledge 2016. Choreography by Akram Khan

What’s On