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Dance Africa Dance

African contemporary dance has only recently come to the fore. The
chief platform on which this young choreography movement can count
is the “Danse l’Afrique Danse” Festival, founded in 1995 and financed
by the Institut Français. BALLET2000’s new contributor, Dieudonné
Korolakina, reports on the Festival’s most recent edition, held in
Burkina Faso

The 10th edition of this travelling festival Hopes and desires
(initially biennial but now held every third year)
was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso at the Ouaga, undoubtedly one of the liveliest hubs
end of 2016 and caught the attention of a public for contemporary dance in Africa, has been im-
of aficionados, experts and programme organ- mersed in an atmosphere of creation since last
isers from Europe and America. A meeting point year. The country has been under a new politi-
that led to another meeting point: i.e. the choice cal regime since 2015, after witnessing a histori-
that this festival – with its theme “memory cal revolution that resulted in the flight of former
and transmission” – made to focus on the past. president Blaise Compaoré who had held sway
The wish to retrace one’s history materialised for 25 years.
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens: thanks to a revival of emblematic African con- More than 160 artists, choreographers and danc-
“La Jeune Fille et la Mort”, c. Stephan Thoss temporary creations, now handed down to ers arrived from Africa, Europe, USA, etc. to
(ph. D. Siqueiros) young dancers. spread their engaging and challenging ideas on the
This festival is already turning Africa into body, ideas from their countries of origin, from
an international choreography hub. It celebrated the past, the present and even the future.
other established names like Stephan Thoss. And its 10th edition in a place that is highly sig- As Sophie Renaud, Director of the Depart-
it is the latter’s third and latest creation for this nificant for new forms of dance in Africa, far ment of Exchange and Artistic Cooperation of
important company, Der Tod und Das Mädchen from Luanda in Angola, where it first saw the the Institut Français (which founded and organ-
(“Death and the Maiden”), that Les Grands Ballets light, and far also from all the other cities where ises the festival – see
Canadiens brought to Paris. the festival has been held – Antananarivo, Tunis, has stated, it was above all an itinerant encoun-
The 52-year-old German choreographer, cur- Johannesburg and Bamako. The most recent ter of various African capitals “fuelled by the
rently the director of the Ballet Company of the edition was hosted in Ouagadougou, one of the hopes and desires of all the artists who have par-
National Theatre, Mannheim (Germany), has cre- few African cities that has its own choreogra- ticipated in the festival from day one”.
ated his ballet within a set designed by himself – phy centre (which was also celebrating its 10th This edition of the festival was directed by
a structure of inclined tiers, at times delimited anniversary) and a well-known school of danc- choreographer Salia Sanou and Seydou Boro of
by a simple play of lights that enlarge the space ing. Without forgetting the continual emergence the Centre Chorégraphique “La Termitière”,
– and using “neo-expressionist” aesthetics that of dance companies and venues in the city and Ouagadougou and coordinated by Irène
seem to suit the GBCM dancers: broad move- the numerous young Burkinabés who wish to Tassembédo (Director of the EDIT International
ments which are abstract but, nevertheless, al- become dancers or choreographers. Dance School).
low emotions to surface.
In his Death and the Maiden, Thoss celebrates
life. Using as his starting point Hades’ abduc- Compagnia X-trem Fusion: “Minkang” (ph. F. Belloeil)
tion of Persephone and the relationship between
death and sexuality, he privileges Eros rather than
Thanatos. His Maiden does not yield easily to
Death. Before doing so, she goes through certain
key stages of existence, each of which is sym-
bolised by a specific element – air, earth, fire and
water – which give Thoss a chance to develop
different styles to represent, respectively, the light-
ness of air, the heaviness of earth, or the scintil-
lating quickness of fire. Death, represented by a
man in black, is never far away and exerts his
seduction on the dancers who personify the ele-
ments in a succession of duets, some of which
are extremely successful.
Franz Schubert quartet kicks in only for the
final duet: most of the ballet is actually danced
to music by Philip Glass.
Whether or not one is receptive to Stephan
Thoss’s highly expressive choreography, the fact
remains that this company was great surprise for
a large slice of the Parisian public: its dancers have
excellent technique and impressive energy.
Sonia Schoonejans