As part of our commitment to bringing contemporary African dance to the Bay Area, YBCA welcomes Kenyan choreographer Opiyo Okach who will present a work in progress showing of his latest solo, Body Evidence. Known for the simplicity and elegance of his improvisation style, Okach examines the role of the body in shaping 21st century global culture where long held notions of ethnic, geographic and temporal identification give way to the power of the individual. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to engage with the artist in an informal setting and gain insight into his creative process.
Inside the Africa Contemporary Arts ConsortiumMay 14, 2011 12:00am
2 pmScreening RoomFREE
An inside look at YBCA's involvement and leadership in presenting performing arts from Africa. Through the leadership of Executive Director Ken Foster, YBCA has been a founding member of The Africa Contemporary Arts Consortium, which is designed to initiate, develop and sustain a dynamic exchange of arts and ideas between artists, arts organizations and public communities throughout the United States and the African continent. Join Ken Foster, and fellow members of this national network, including Joan Frosch, Center for World Arts at the University of Florida (Gainesville), and Cathy Zimmerman, MAPP International Productions (NYC) in addition to Kenyan choreographer Opiyo Okach, discussing projects, research, and partnerships since the inception of the consortium in 2004.
I’m thrilled to welcome Kenyan choreographer Opiyo Okach for this residency at YBCA, during which he’s furthering his research for the solo work Body Evidence. These work-in-progress showings are part of Okach’s larger research project, Territories in Transgression, that explores questions of identity, authenticity and contemporary realities and is a cornerstone project in our Big Idea, Encounter: Engaging the Social Context.
I have been growing increasingly frustrated with the standard touring model, which brings artists to a city for four or five nights spent traveling between their hotel and the performance venue. Such a model limits their engagement with the local culture, an experience YBCA believes enriches and deepens the artists experience with their work and the audiences. As such, we decided to create a new residency model, based on the workshop format, beginning with Okach’s engagement. We consider this to be more than just a performance presentation; this residency nurtures creative development and facilitates a meeting point, an introduction between the artist, the ideas in his work and our local arts community.
We have made these performances informal so that audiences can engage with the creative process through Q&A sessions following each performance. Your responses are not only welcome but also encouraged. They will also offer more insight into the issues and ideas Okach is developing in his new work. Territories in Transgression provides yet another voice from the contemporary performance culture of Africa, but one that is in deep dialogue with the diverse range of choreographic voices we’ve presented from the continent, including Gregory Maqoma (South Africa), Faustin Linyekula (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Compagnie TchéTché (Ivory Coast), to name a few. Like the others, this program emphasizes our role in The Africa Contemporary Arts Consortium and underscores our commitment to develop a dynamic exchange of arts and ideas between artists, arts organizations and communities throughout the United States and Africa.
Maintaining a place on the international contemporary dance scene, Opiyo Okach divides his time and work development between France and Kenya. Through long-term choreographic development initiatives, Okach has acted as a catalyst for new directions and perspectives in dance from East Africa and continues to support the emergence of a new generation of dance artists. Okach was awarded the Prix du Nouveau Talent Chorégraphiques in 2003 and a Prince Claus Award for Culture and Development in 2005.
In I996, Okach joined Faustin Linyekula to form the first contemporary dance company in Kenya, La Compagnie Gàara. With its first creation, Cleansing, the company won a prize at the African Choreographic Encounters 1998. Cleansing opened the door to the international scene and marked the beginning of support by principal figures of French dance such as Régine Chopinot or Mathilde Monnier.
Since 1998, the Ballet Atlantique Régine Chopinot has supported La Compagnie Gàara through a series of residencies and choreographic exchange. In 1999, in collaboration with the Centre Chorégraphique de Montpellier, the Ballet Altlantique supported the company’s new project, the solo Dilo, for which Okach became recognized on the European dance scene. Dilo is based on improvisation and instant composition work and inspired by the mythology of nomadic ethnic groups in eastern Africa. Following its presentation at the Plateaux de Biennale du Val-de-Marne in 2001 and Hivernales d’Avignon in 2002, Dilo toured internationally to over 17 countries.
Between 2000 and 2002, Okach, with the support of a number of international partners, laid the basis for a long-term choreographic development project in Nairobi. In 2002 the choreographic creation Abila premiered in Nairobi and was presented at Ballet Atlantique and Centre National de la Danse in France, before touring in Eastern and Southern Africa, the Indian Ocean region, and Europe.
In 2003 the Society of Authors and Dramatic Composers (SACD) awarded Okach the Prix du Nouveau Talent Chorégraphique. SACD commissioned him to create a new solo for the 2003 Festival d’Avignon. His collaboration with the renown improviser, Julyen Hamilton, gave birth to the solo No Man’s Gone Now. The work premieres at Centre National de la Danse in January 2004 and has since known international success. 2004 was rich in new transversal collaboration, notably with choreographer Thierry Niang.
Okach’s recent work, shift…centre, is an evolutionary process in which audiences, local artists and company dancers occupy the same scenographic space. shift…centre premiered in Nairobi in 2005 and has toured in France, Germany, South Africa, Mozambique, Brazil and the UK.
Okach is currently developing the choreographic project Territories in Transgression. The first work of the project, Border Border Express, premiered at the Rencontres Internationales de Seine Saint Denis in May 2009.
Today Okach is also artistic director of Gàara Dance Foundation, created in 2002 to consolidate the choreographic activity initiated in Kenya. Its activities include choreographic research, artist residency, choreographic exchange, support for creation and dissemination of work. Regional and pan-African exchange such as the Dance Encounters (East African Dance Encounters 2003, Retracing Connections 2004, Encoding identities) are part of its mission.
YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
Nathan Cummings Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
YBCA Performance 10–11 is made possible in part by:
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Additional Funding for YBCA Performance 10–11:
Zellerbach Family Foundation
Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts