Skip to main content
We take a look at the making of our powerful dance film, Creature, choreographed by Akram Khan and directed by Academy Award-winner Asif Kapadia.
Creature pulses with the visceral energy of two incredible storytellers in Asif and Akram, leading a world-class team of dancers and film creatives to bring a cinematic vision to life.
Uzma Hasan, producer

From Stage to Screen

Creature is based on ENB’s 2021 stage production of the same name from the acclaimed choreographer Akram Khan.

It’s the third collaboration between English National Ballet and Akram Khan and builds on the huge success of the original commission, Dust, and the subsequent collaboration reimagining the iconic ballet, Giselle.

When commissioning Creature, the intention was for the work be performed live and also captured for the screen, working with a skilled film director to bring a unique artistic vision to the project.

English National Ballet in Creature © Moeez Ali

A Project in Jeopardy

The initial plan was for the stage production of Creature to premiere in April 2020 and then, in the following year, to create the film. However, when the pandemic hit,  it was clear the creation process for Creature was in jeopardy.

In spring 2020, in the week prior to the UK’s first lockdown, Khan and a small number of dancers continued to work until the last minute to create the basic structure of Creature  and film it for archive.

In March 2020, the UK went into lockdown and the stage premiere was postponed.

Akram Khan working with ENB dancers on the set of the Creature film © Laurent Liotardo

Overcoming Obstacles

In the summer of 2020, ENB’s dancers were able to return to our headquarters, carefully bubbled, to begin ballet class and strength training.

ENB was awarded support from the Culture Recovery Fund , helping to ensure the Company’s survival in the wake of the pandemic. Crucially, in addition to allowing us to retain our elite talent and protect as many jobs as possible, we were able to continue to create work. The Creature film was one of the major projects this grant supported.

With the live performance environment still uncertain, plans for the Creature project pivoted, and the film would now be created in advance of the stage premiere. Due to the Company’s busy schedule, there was a very tight window in which to deliver the film.

Asif Kapadia working with ENB dancers on the set of the Creature film © Laurent Liotardo

Assembling the Team

ENB engaged Uzma Hasan as Producer for the film, and she brought Asif on board as Director – someone who Akram was specifically keen to work with. With the team in place, a three-week window was found in ENB’s busy schedule, leaving just one week for rehearsal and only 10 days to film.

I had never previously been to the ballet, but I was excited and intrigued by the opportunity to collaborate with the brilliant choreographer. Akram and I first met on a panel at the National Film Theatre in 2001 around the time of the release of my debut feature The Warrior; we were both starting out in our careers. It only took twenty years for us to find the right time, place and project to work together.
Asif Kapadia, director
Asif Kapadia and Akram Khan on the set of the Creature film © Andrew Leo

And Action!

The film was shot entirely at ENB’s headquarters in the Holloway Production Studio, with pandemic restrictions in place throughout. Creature required a huge collaborative effort to deliver, with everyone collaborating andcoming together over the three-week period.

The film is a testament to the determination and creativity of the extraordinary people who brought this version to life.

Working with Asif and a whole team of artists, allowed us collectively to seek new ways of storytelling, and for me this is always the most exciting and important part of any artist’s journey.
Akram Khan, choreographer

Watch the trailer below:

What the film critics are saying:

“An entirely new experience created from the synthesis of cinema and ballet.”
★★★★★ The Upcoming

“An immersive implosion of artistic forms out of which a new monster is born.”
★★★★ Little White Lies

“Starring the charismatic dancer Jeffrey Cirio as the Creature, thrillingly athletic and physical, every muscle and tendon visible.”
★★★★ The Guardian

“A soulful and engaging feat in collaborative filmmaking.”
★★★★ Empire