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The Accountants: a collaboration of communication and culture

By Saffah Anjum

Adolescents originating two superpowers China and India go head-to-head, combined with cultural clashes, expectations and modern technology interactions, navigating one’s purpose in life appears more difficult than it seems. Pioneer choreographer Keith Khan teams up with Terence Lewis’ Contemporary Dance Company and Xiexin Dance Theatre the story Kash and Liam aid each other in piloting their home culture in the United Kingdom. The show challenges stereotypes associated with these formidable nations, delving into cultural norms, career decisions, and technology-driven communication. However, at its core, it poses a fundamental inquiry: Amidst these complexities, how does one carve out their unique life journey? Saffah Anjum from DominAsian Magazine delves into the inner carvings of The Accountants with Keith Khan.

Kieth Khan, Lead Artist

Keith Khan begins discussing his creative intention in developing ‘The Accountants’ to which he replies “I have been in the Asian art scene for a long time and wanted to create something relevant for younger people, a palette of media; films, television and theatres are pointing backwards in a contemporary crisis”. He adds “South Asians are reduced to Bollywood, I wanted to spread the other way”. The two largest economies in the world colliding to tackle small-mindedness is something Khan desired to emulate on and off stage. 

As dance is a form of expression, it begs the question of stage presence and utilisation, what does it represent and why use dance to communicate the message? The dual collaboration of a Chinese dance company and an Indian dance company, the form of dance is non-linguistic yet expressive to Khan. He uses the popular band ‘Jungle’  as an example, “dance is more accessible than text”. He continues “the show is based on visual culture, images and dance can demonstrate narrative and plot of stories, the thought is given by data, facts and emotion”. Khan rotates his camera to show me the performance stage, one large screen followed by two phone screens are displayed on either side. The screen is to be used as a storytelling device but is also accessible for the deaf when played back. The duality of accessibility was something which particularly struck me about this production, for the less able and the creation of intangible sensations and emotions, speaks to the audience directly.

Choreography by Xie Xin

In terms of mediums of expression [bringing the elements of dance to life], Khan states “Everything is integrated, the somatic runs as one soundtrack and is intertwined with everything; capturing movement and words. Terence Lewis and XieXin Dance are at the top of their game in those countries, there is something special about the way they confidently move their bodies in a space, it’s about quality in the way they move and choreography; to pull quotations from Indian and Chinese dance”. To which I asked, “ do you believe the understanding dance is heavily embedded into both cultures?”Keith Khan agrees “I hadn’t thought about that, that is a good thought but I hope so, it is also present in contemporary culture” he highlights examples such as Beyoncé and Rihanna, “It is a primary tool for communication”. I highlight that dance is particularly relevant in the modern day, particularly on TikTok where the most popular influencers are dancers and people love to watch, follow and learn dances which create a community, to which Keith replies “And don’t forget TikTok is a Chinese company [which is referenced in the performance].

I move on to AI and its meticulous purposes in the creative world, does it fuel or hinder a creative process? Khan highlights that “without virtual technology,  this project wouldn’t exist. We have made this show in pieces via Zoom and Cameo. The size of this epic show is all done virtually and internationally” between London, Mumbai and Shanghai. While being data heavy, the show also contrasts this by contemplating the absence of data, which is quite scary for most people, questioning reality, humanity, feelings, death and sexuality; morphing data heavy world and removing it. Personally, I could not imagine a world where media overconsumption does not exist or the inability to access technology.

We move on to the workplace and stereotypes. The show combines cultural understanding, Khan discusses the show and makes a point of using the word “Asian” in the show, as it pertains to people of both Indian heritage and Chinese heritage, there is a direct reference to Chinese and Indian people being boxed collectively under a purposeless noun. Khan states that “one of the actors is mixed race Chinese, there is a debate of ‘who is the better Asian’ in a joke form” as there is a secret element of competition but also in a sense of parody. “The most clear example I’ve had which hit me when I was head of culture at the Olympic games, there was a BBC satire of my job and recruitment. it was semi-real and I am satirised as an uptight Asian woman and camp choreographer. As I am Trinidadian, gay, Muslim… all of us are too complicated for a simple identity and I was parodied. It was a clear example of how I appear in the public realm, who knows about the private realm”. I express sympathies and ask how it felt to be seen in that light, Khan answers “I found it quite funny, I didn’t mind, I felt it was a funny way of viewing myself”. Khan began to ask me about my experiences of stereotyping, notably the first person I liked in secondary school asked what my name was, the reason for asking was not out of curiosity, but simply because he assumed my name was Priya. While the name is beautiful, it made me feel less like a person, particularly as I was young and developed feelings for this person. Our shared experiences of external perception brought us to a closer connection. While stereotypes are harmful and hurtful, they also unite us.

Lastly, Keith Khan discusses what motivated him forward to create ‘The Accountants’, “To make something of value. I haven’t made anything in 5 years, I have waited and I am confident”. He continues “We are interested in opportunities for younger people”.

 The Accountants premieres at Manchester’s Aviva Studio’s from May 4th - May 11th. Book your tickets at    

Choreography By Terrance Lewis

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