My favorite room: Akram Khan

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 34, Spring 2013

Page 72

Akram Khan, who choreographed the Olympics Opening Ceremony, dips into Tate Modern's Turbine Hall and Tanks

If I have any time off, I go to Tate Modern with my wife. I love the Turbine Hall and in July I discovered the Tate Tanks. BBC News asked me to review Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's performance there of a very old piece called Fase: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, originally created in 1982. It's a duet, and it really worked.

In the Tanks, I could smell the history of the place. Tate Modern is a former power station and the Tanks used to be filled with oil. In fact, there is one smaller tank where the smell is still so strong, it's almost unbearable. Tate Tanks is a huge space which feels epic and intimate at the same time because the walls are circular. I have always liked things that are circular, especially rooms, because there is a sense of feeling trapped.

While I was watching the duet, I realized that the piece was made somewhere else, and then planted inside the Tanks. I thought it would be fascinating to create a piece in relation and in response to the architecture. What's fascinating about the space is that it demands attention.

I am not interested in the conceptualisation of art, I am interested in the physical approach to art – that's why I like Anish Kapoor so much, that's why I like Antony Gormley. For me, they are the giants, because their work reflects a physical kind of intelligence which is the way I approach my work. I love the concept of scale and I love the stuff that goes in the Turbine Hall. I loved Kapoor's trumpet (Marsyas), Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds and I thought Olafur Eliasson's sunrise (The Weather Project) was absolutely ingenious.

I went to see the crack (Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth) with Darvish Fakhr, a friend who was commissioned to paint me for the National Portrait Gallery. He likes to skateboard and we dared each other to skate close to the crack all the way down the Hall. Of course you are not allowed to do that. So we waited until the security guard was at the far end of the hall and then my friend went for it. I didn't dare! Darvish skated all the way down and of course the security guard was waiting for him and chased him all the way back up to the entrance and then we both ran out. I was hoping that the Director of Tate Modern, whom I know, wouldn't see us on camera...

Exactly 100 years since its first performance took Paris by storm, Stravinsky's masterpiece The Rite of Spring will be celebrated at Sadler's Wells with a radical reinterpretation by Akram Khan from 28 May – 1 June.

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