Amy chats to Jan Mikaela Villanueva, who plays Mowgli in Akram Khan’s Jungle Book reimagined.
Hi Jan, how is the tour going?
It’s a privilege to learn from my mentors and co-dancers in this company in all aspects of life. It has been an incredible experience immersing myself into the different cultures whilst performing Akram’s Jungle Book reimagined. There are countless beautiful places and theatres throughout the tour, and every venue has brought a special energy and memories.
How did you join Akram Khan Company?
In my final year of training in 2022, I was fortunate to join an internship with the Akram Khan Company during the creation and rehearsals of Jungle Book reimagined and perform in the production residency and shows in Curve Leicester. I was then offered a contract shortly after and joined the company after graduation in July. It was such an honour and insightful process and I cannot thank the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and Akram Khan Company enough for this amazing opportunity.
Tell us about Jungle Book reimagined – what can audiences expect?
Jungle Book reimagined is a twist on Rudyard Kipling’s original book and sheds light on the relationships of humanity with nature and everything that exists within it. The show has a humorous touch as well as scenes that allow the audience to connect to current events around the world and with themselves. Most importantly, it leaves the audience with a thought of what the future could possibly bring.
What attracted you to this production?
The engaging work and practice, immersing in Akram’s intricate dancing style, family-team like atmosphere are just a few of the countless reasons why this production is so special to me. Back in grade school, I wrote an essay on climate change which won in a national competition in the Philippines entitled Children as Stewards of God’s Creation. 12 years later, the fight against climate change is more relevant now than ever. I believe it is always important to bring awareness to the consequences of humanitarian actions on nature, spark reflection and action, and hopefully; positive change.
How long have you been dancing? Was this always what you wanted to do?
My mom first enrolled me to a dance class at the age of 8 to improve my posture and self – confidence; now my passion for dance has grown into so much more over the years. I would not have been able to further my dance training if it weren’t for the scholarships I have received from Philippine High School for the Arts, Ballet Philippines, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and the generosity of my dear teachers. I have never found this much freedom and happiness in honing my skills and creativity in the arts. The search for improvement in dance is endless, which serves as an exciting challenge for me every single day. In addition, dance became my safe space to heal and find the light during challenging times, such as the pandemic. Weonly live once and while I still can, I want to take advantage of this vessel that we have and spread the joy of dance. It is a wonderful feeling to move, perform onstage and spread ideas that can provoke, inspire and touch people.
Do you have any advice for budding dancers?
Embrace the lessons you’ve gained from your mentors, be inspired by others, and most importantly, embrace yourself. There is always something within you that is special – be proud of who you are, but at the same time, be humble enough to acknowledge that there is an endless journey to improve both strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, keep working hard and enjoy the experience of performing, learning, discovering! Everyone has an individual journey, embrace it!
And finally, why should people book a ticket to Jungle Book reimagined?
With themes on connection, empathy and love, Jungle Book reimagined can hopefully serve as a space for people to reflect on today’s events or their own personal journeys, rekindle with their inner child, enjoy with friends and family and take a break from the busy and fast pace of life.
ABOUT THE SHOW
Akram Khan’s Jungle Book reimagined is currently on tour, and will be at Sadlers Wells Theatre in London from the 4th – 15th April.