Voices of Strength:
A Two-Night Celebration of Contemporary Dance and Theater by Women from Africa
Nelisiwe Xaba & Kettly Noël, Correspondances
Nadia Beugré, Quartiers Libres
Fri, Oct 19 • 8 pm • YBCA Forum
Five-Dollar Friday: All seats $5!
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“The work of art and the work of culture is to pave the way for a qualitative practice of the imagination — a practice without which we will have no name, no face, and no voice in history.” — Achille Mbembe
As part of our commitment to supporting the work of contemporary African choreographers, YBCA welcomes Voices of Strength: A Two-Night Celebration of Contemporary Dance and Theater by Women from Africa, a U.S. debut tour that celebrates the stylistic diversity of contemporary performance across the African continent. Created and performed by Nelisiwe Xaba (South Africa), Kettly Noël (Haiti/Mali), Nadia Beugré (Côte d’Ivoire), Bouchra Ouizguen (Morocco) and Maria-Helena Pinto (Mozambique), the works in Voices of Strength use humor, irony, poignancy, and power to confront personal obstacles, address political and social issues, and paint true and vivid pictures of the lives of contemporary African women.
Kettly Noël (Haiti/Mali) and Nelisiwe Xaba (South Africa), Correspondances
Noël and Xaba met through a friend in Johannesburg, and a year later they decided to create a piece together. Thus began a series of correspondences on diverse subjects addressing the intimate fabric of friendship while exploring themes of race, culture, and gender. The work they created, Correspondances, is a lively and sophisticated duet that is part theater, part dance, and part storytelling.
Nadia Beugré (Côte d'Ivoire), Quartiers Libres
A solo by Nadia Beugré, Quartiers Libres draws from her heritage and daily experiences to express, in an emphatic and intangible way, a woman’s journey to reclaim power and purpose. Beugré has a commanding onstage presence that in this piece is matched by a live-mixed interactive sound design. A former member of the stunning all-female Compagnie TchéTché, founded by the legendary Béatrice Kombé, Beugré leads the way for a new generation of contemporary choreographers from Côte d’Ivoire.
Maria Helena Pinto (Mozambique), Sombra
Sombra (Shadow) is a stark and poignant solo that gives voice and light to the hidden women of our societies. With an overturned bucket on top of her head, both obscuring her vision and keeping the viewer from seeing her face, Pinto imagines women who are central to life — those who idealize, imagine, create, construct, plan, organize, and execute — but exist in shadow.
Bouchra Ouizguen (Morocco), Madame Plaza
An ensemble piece created by Moroccan choreographer Bouchra Ouizguen, Madame Plaza is performed with three traditional Moroccan cabaret singers called Aïta — vocalists whose custom includes guttural wailing and incantations. In Morocco, the Aïta are paradoxically the object of admiration and fantasy, but also contemptuous rejection. Their artistry is often classified as folklore, but their presence is immediately and profoundly contemporary. With touching directness and surprising humor, Madame Plaza comments on traditional notions of femininity and celebrates the essential freedom of both the body and the voice.
The multi-lateral silence is deafening...
Within the hollow of a genocide, against the scorched side of a drought, despite the yawning regularity of abuse and intimidation, the texture of an African female aesthetic is coming into sharp focus.
Voices of Strength is what happens when a myth grows up and begins to speak for itself. It is a collection of politicized, compassionate re-tellings of the human temperament “spoken” from the perspective of a re-positioned protagonist, the African woman, split into geographic parts, filling dry chasms of narrative holes. The artists represented in the two programs come to the United States from Mali and South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire and Morocco, Mozambique and more. They are choreographers, writers, singers, and designers with dissimilar views of a continent swathed in stereotype and monolith. They draw into the mythic space that the West projects onto them, responding at turns to the sexual violence and weaponry of cultural warfare, and also to the complex tenderness of sisterhood.
Maybe their work isn’t as vast as the Saharan trek in a Hollywood movie, and the smallness of their stories is actually the point.
A dark dancer in a dark dress. She is from Mozambique, looking dead at you, sight impaired.
Wailing women, monastic and ordinary, Francophile of the desert, arcing hands slicing between them like aberrant thoughts in a meditation.
Mother’s milk in rain form, libation on an unlit stage, soaking two female letter-writers in the middle of a correspondence.
There are, without a doubt, sights and sounds from Voices of Strength that an American audience will never have seen before. There will be, for many, a new arrival at a more distinctive and empirically based composite of the African female experience. More poignantly however, there will be over-evidence of the familiar, a temple of ordinary textured female and African. These stories are slightly less than manifestoes, and correspondingly, are scaled huge precisely because of their intimate and approximate architecture.
Director of Performance
Originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, choreographer and dancer Kettly Noël has created a body of dance work over the past 15 years, seen widely in Africa and Europe, that deals with identity and the fight for position of African artists and women, and includes Ti'chelbé, Errance, L'Autre, Zones Humides Imaginaires and Bonjour Madame Noël. She began dancing at the age of 17 with the Haitian-American Dance Theatre (now World Dance Theatre), and relocated to Paris in the early 1990s, where she trained as a dancer and actress and founded her first company. In 1996, she moved to Benin, where she continued to develop her choreographic technique while starting a program to train youngsters in contemporary dance. Ms. Noël relocated to Mali in 1999, and founded Donko Seko, an organization where she built a space for dance workshops and choreographic research (with the first dance floor in Bamako); established the Bamako Dance Festival (the first international festival of contemporary dance in Mali); and expanded her dance training program for youth and adults. In 2010, Donko Seko hosted the biennial Danse L'Afrique dance festival.
Nelisiwe Xaba was born and raised in Soweto (South Africa), and received a scholarship to study at the Johannesburg Dance Foundation. After studying dance in London (with a 1996 Ballet Rambert Scholarship), she returned home to join Pact Dance Company, where she was a company member for several years, and with whom she toured to Europe and the Middle East. She worked with a variety of choreographers, visual and theater artists, particularly Robyn Orlin, with whom she created works such as Keep the Home Fires Burning, Down Scaling down, Life after the credits roll, and Daddy I've seen this piece six times before and I still don't know why they're hurting each other, which toured for several years in Europe and Asia, winning the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance. In 2001, Ms. Xaba began to focus on her choreographic voice, creating solo and group dance works that have been performed in Africa and Europe, including Dazed and confused, No Strings Attached 1, No Strings Attached 2, Be My Wife (BMW) (commissioned by the Soweto Dance Project), Black!...White and Plasticization. Ms. Xaba has also collaborated as choreographer and dancer with fashion designers, opera productions, music videos, television productions, and multimedia performance projects.
Maria Helena Pinto
Maria Helena Pinto is a choreographer, dancer, and teacher in Maputo, Mozambique. Her choreographic works have been selected for presentation at festivals such as Afrique en Création (Madagascar, 2003), Festival Interculturel de Mayotte (2007), Danse L'Afrique (Tunisia, 2008), Rencontre de Danse Métisses (French Guyana, 2009), and Kaay Fecc (Senegal, 2009), and include Sombre, Tempestade, O olho e a Percepção (which toured to France and Finland), Noticias (which toured to Italy), and Mar Vermelho (performed in France and South Africa). Her current projects — the group piece, CALA-TE and the solo, The Run of Africa — will premiere in 2012-13. She has taught and choreographed at the National Dance School of Mozambique and Centro de Pesquisa Coreográfica, and has led her own dance school since 2003. In 2006, she co-organized the first International Contemporary Dance Festival in Maputo. She is currently building DANS'ARTES, a new center to host national, pan-African, and international meetings, festivals, performances, and exhibitions. For her role in creating DANS'ARTES, and her efforts to develop contemporary arts and culture in Mozambique, Ms. Pinto was elected the 2010 Personality of Arts and Culture by National Radio of Mozambique.
Born in Ouarzazate, Morocco, and educated in France, Bouchra Ouizguen was a soloist in oriental dance in Morocco from 1995 to 2000. From 1998 to 2001, she studied and performed in Marrakech and in France, with Bernado Montet, Mathilde Monnier, and Boris Charmatz. In 2002, with Taoufiq Izeddiou and Saïd Ait El Moumen, Ms. Ouizguen founded ANANIA, a contemporary dance company in Marrakech that created the On Marche dance festival. She also collaborated that year in forming the Al Mokhtabar contemporary dance company. Ms. Ouizguen's choreographic works include: AnaOunta (2002); Fina ken'ti (2002); Mort et moi (2005); Déserts, desires with Taoufiq Izeddiou (2006); Aïta with Naïma Sahmoud (2007); and Madame Plaza (2008-2009). They have been presented throughout Morocco and in France, including the prestigious Montpellier Dance Festival. Madame Plaza was presented as part of the 2010 FIAF Crossing the Line Festival in New York City. Since 2007, Ms. Ouizguen has been a co-organizer of the annual festival Recontres Choréographiques of Marrakech.
Born in Zikisso, Côte d'Ivoire, Nadia Beugré made her first appearances with Dante Theatre in 1995. In 1997, she became a member of the ground-breaking all-female dance ensemble, Compagnie TchéTché, founded by Béatrice Kombé. She performed with the company for eight years, touring in Africa, Europe, and North America. Following Ms. Kombé's untimely death in 2007, Ms. Beugré began to create her own works. These include un espace vide: moi, performed in Tunis, Burkina Faso, England, and France; 120 M/h, a collaboration with choreographers (and childhood friends) Michel Kouakou and Daudet Glazaï, which was developed in the U.S. at Bates Dance Festival and VSA New Mexico/North Fourth Art Center, and premiered in Germany at Dansart Bielefeld 2010 Biennale; and Quartiers Libres, which premiered at the 2010 Danse L'Afrique danse festival in Mali. She trained at the Centre Choréographiques in Montpelier, France with Mathilde Monnier; at l'Ecole des Sables in Senegal with Germaine Acogny; and at the Center for Choreographic Development in Burkina Faso with Carolyn Carlson and Burkinabé Bourou Amadou.
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Curated and produced by MAPP International Productions in partnership with The Africa Contemporary Arts Consortium, of which YBCA is a founding member.
The U.S. tour of Voices of Strength is made possible with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts, supported by lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Community Connections Fund of the MetLife Foundation, the Boeing Company Charitable Trust, and the eeg-cowles Foundation.
YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
National Endowment for the Arts
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is grateful to the City of San Francisco for its ongoing support.
YBCA Performance 12-13 is made possible in part by:
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Additional Funding for YBCA Performance 12-13:
Zellerbach Family Foundation
Panta Rhea Foundation
New England Foundation for the Arts
and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts