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The heart of the sand

Numeridanse 2004 - Director : Lefebvre, Élodie

Choreographer(s) : Acogny, Germaine (Senegal) Théfaine, Flora (Togo) Blumenthal, Bud (United States) Montet, Bernardo (France)

Present in collection(s): Numeridanse

Video producer : Association Jant-bi

en fr

The heart of the sand

Numeridanse 2004 - Director : Lefebvre, Élodie

Choreographer(s) : Acogny, Germaine (Senegal) Théfaine, Flora (Togo) Blumenthal, Bud (United States) Montet, Bernardo (France)

Present in collection(s): Numeridanse

Video producer : Association Jant-bi

en fr

The heart of the sand

Germaine Acogny is a leading figure in African dance. With l’École des sables, founded in 1996 at Toubab Dialaw in Senegal, she pursues her objective; to teach the new generations of African dancers and to initiate them to contemporary dance, without discarding their traditions. For three months in 2001, Germaine Acogny and her guests, choreographers Flora Théfain (Togo), Bud Blumenthal (USA) and Bernardo Montet (France), presented their vision of choreography to thirty students from seventeen African countries.

Source:  Élodie Lefebvre  

Acogny, Germaine

Germaine Acogny is one of the best known personalities  of the African contemporary dance scene, including the field of teaching  and development of contemporary dance in Africa.  

Senegalese and French, she participated from 1962 till 1965 at the  formation at Simon Siegel’s school (the director was Ms Marguerite  Lamotte) in Paris and received a diploma in physical education and  harmonious gymnastics. Then, she founded her first dance studio in Dakar, 1968. Thanks to the  influence of the dances she had inherited from her grandmother, a Yoruba  priest, and to her studies of traditional African dances and Occidental  dances (classic, modern) in Paris and New York, Germaine Acogny created  her own technique of Modern African Dance and is considered to be the  “mother of Contemporary African dance”. 

Between 1977 and 1982 she was the artistic director of MUDRA  AFRIQUE (Dakar), created by Maurice Béjart and the Senegalese president  and poet Leopold Sedar Senghor. In 1980, she wrote her first book entitled “African Dance”, edited in  three languages. Once Mudra Afrique had closed, she moved to Brussels to work with  Maurice Béjart’s company, where she organised international African  dance workshops, which showed great success among the European students.  This same experience was repeated in Africa, in Fanghoumé, a small  village in Casamance, in the south of Senegal. People from Europe and  all over the world travelled to this place.

Together with her husband, Helmut Vogt, she set up in 1985, in  Toulouse, France, the “Studio-Ecole-Ballet-Théâtre du 3è Monde”.
After having been away from the stage for several years, Germaine Acogny  made her come back as a dancer and choreographer in 1987. She worked  with Peter Gabriel for a video clip and created her solo “Sahel”. Other  choreographies follow. Her solo “YE’OU”, created in 1988, tours on all continents and wins the  “London Contemporary Dance and Performance Award” in 1991.
In 1995, she decides to go back to Senegal, with the aim of creating an  International Centre for Traditional and Contemporary African Dances: a  meeting point for dancers coming from Africa and from all over the world  and, a place of professional education for dancers from the whole of  Africa with the aim to guide them towards a Contemporary African Dance. The construction of the Centre -also called “L’Ecole des Sables”- was  achieved in June 2004. Although, since 1998, three-month professional  workshops for African dancers and choreographers were organised every  year. About 40 dancers from all over Africa met, exchanged and worked  together each time.
In 1997, Germaine Acogny became Artistic Director of the “Dance section  of Afrique en Creations” in Paris, a position she held until September  2000. During this time, she was responsible for the Contemporary African  Dance Competition, an important platform for young African  choreographers.

In 2005, she was invited as regent at UCLA (University of Los Angeles).
Her solo “Tchouraï”, created in 2001, choreographed by Sophiatou Kossoko  was successfully touring until 2008. She has presented it in France  (Theatre de la Ville, Paris), Germany, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Italy,  the US (New York, Chicago) Brazil and in China (first Contemporary  Dance Festival in Shanghai).
In 2003/2004, she created the piece “Fagaala”, for her company JANT-BI,  based on the genocide in Rwanda. It was co-choreographed with Kota  Yamazaki/Japan for 7 African dancers, a fusion between Butoh and  traditional and contemporary African Dances. It had already three very  successful tours in the US, and was performed in Europe, Australia  (Melbourne Festival, Sydney Opera House) and in Japan.

In 2007, she and Kota Yamazaki received a BESSIE Award (New York Dance and Performance Award) for “Fagaala”.
Later that year, the great challenge was the choreographic part of the  OPERA du SAHEL, an important African creation, initiated and produced by  the Prince Claus Fund in Holland. It premiered in Bamako in February  2007, followed by performances in Amsterdam and Paris and a first  African Tour in 2009. 

In 2008, another choreographic work was organised as a collaboration  between Jant-Bi company (7 male dancers) and Urban Bush Women company (7  Afro-American female dancers) from New York. This new creation “Les  écailles de la mémoire – Scales of memory” was created by her and Jawole  Zollar, the artistic director of Urban Bush Women and had great success  during several touring in the USA and in Europe. Her creation, the solo “Songook Yaakaar” had its Premiere at the  Biennale de la danse in Lyon in September 2010.

In 2014 the French choreographer Olivier Dubois created a solo piece for  Germaine Acogny “Mon élue noire – Sacre no.2” based on the original  music of “Le Sacre du printemps.” In 2015 her new solo creation “Somewhere at the beginning”, came out in  collaboration with theatre director Mikael Serre, a creation that  combined dance, theater and video. The premier took place at the Grand  Theatre de la Ville du Luxembourg in June 2015. She continues to collaborate with international schools and Dance  Centers and regularly teaches master classes. From January 2015 she submitted the Artistic Direction of the Ecole des  Sables to her son Patrick Acogny. 

In 2020, Germaine Acogny and Helmut Vogt made the decision to hand  over the role of Artistic Direction and custodian of the Ecole des  Sables to two of its trusted Alumni that are also holders of the Acogny  Technique Diploma: Alesandra Seutin and Wesley Ruzibiza, to work  alongside Paul Sagne, who has been working and evolving within Ecole des  Sables for the last 15 years and who has now been appointed  Administrative Director.

In February 2021, Germaine Acogny was Awarded with “The Golden Lion for Lifetime achievement” in dance by the La Biennale di Venezia.

Source : Ecole des sables 's website

More information :

Théfaine, Flora

Flora Théfaine is a pioneer of African contemporary dance. She arrived in France from her native country, Togo, one day in the year 1969, to take root in lands other than her own, and decided to draw inspiration from the traditions of her country to create unique and cross-cultural contemporary choreographies. Her distinctive feature: direct artists from different origins and backgrounds, to stimulate her imagination and nurture her choreographic research. With some twenty works, her research is rooted in social and intimate reality, with the conviction that “the disposition of human beings for resilience and the determination to follow their dreams results in dance”. 

Blumenthal, Bud

Bud Blumenthal is an American-born choreographer creating works in Europe since 1991.

He settled in Bruxelles in 1988 to become part of the Plan K Company of Frédéric Flamand.

His background is eclectic – he practiced sport intensively before exploring the techniques of yoga, tai chi chuan and improvised dance. His encounter with Michèle Noiret marked the beginning of his choreographic career with the collaborative duet Louisiana Breakfast (1991).

Since his appearance at Avignon in 2000, with 24 Haïkus (solo, 1996) and Noeud de Sable (duet, 1997), and with Les Entrailles de Narcisse in the Festival des Hivernales 2001, his choreographic works gained attention for his way of conjugating the poetry and fluidity of movement with new technology. This approach is used in River Tryptych, which brings together the masculin duet Rivermen (1999), the solo Les Entrailles de Narcisse (2001) and the masculine trio Red Cliff (2002) that was supported by the Forum, Scène conventionné of Blanc-Mesnil (France) and featured a motorised, floating screen.

In 2002, in a tribute to the American dance and technology pioneer Loïe Fuller, he created Phantom Limbic for the Ballet de Lorraine in Nancy that features computer-generated images and special effects. Beyond these investigations, he sometimes explores stylistic hybridisation such as in Spledge (2000, mixing hip hop, club and contemporary) or with African dance in the duo Groundscape (for the Festival Africalia 2003).

In 2004, for the Charleroi/Danses Biennal, Bud Blumenthal presented an ambitious production based on Homer’s Odysseus and James Joyce’s novel: Les Reflets d’Ulysse. It made use of extensive technological systems such as the “active shadow” a video projector whose image can be moved and pointed at will. This work was the subject of preliminary gestural and technological research that led to the solo Les Sentiers d’Ulysse. Another invention “the active whisper” that moved and directed sound beams was made for the installation Ulysses Roaming in 2005 for the festival Equilibrio in Rome. In 2006 the solo Po’s Vague combined computer animation and wearable sound projection. 

In 2007, he created the dance and music quartet Standing Wave with music by Walter Hus. Featuring a live string quartet it made use of monumental computer graphics, wearable sound projectors, controlled sound beams and motorised floating props . The same year, with Hayo David he made the male duet DoWhileLoop that later became the evening-length DoWhileLoopS.

With the ongoing project Into The Riff begun in 2008, he explores the mixture of live improvised dance and music in the company of Garrett List and musicians of The Riffing Society. 2009 sees the creation of Beatrix//Beatrice, female duo combining voice, movement and technology to the music George De Decker.

It is also this year that Bud Blumenthal launches the project DANCERS!, website library and interactive monumental installation honoring dancers with a vast collection of precisely-filmed 2-minute solos by professional dancers of all styles and techniques.

In 2011, at the invitation of choreographer Manuela Nogales of Seville, they create Dentro por Fuera, Fuera por Dentro, a duet with live viola and electronic music. 

On a spiritual and physical quest, in 2014 Bud Blumenthal and a crew of 8 technologists invent an immersive interactive stage performance Perfectiøn. Using 3D volumetric cameras, both on stage and suspended as well as wrist-band motion detectors, the project breaks limits in interactive 3D animation and computerised scenic control. The knowledge and methods acquired and developed form the basis of the techno/ecological group work Leaves of Grass.

Source : Compagnie Bud Blumenthal’s site

More information :

Montet, Bernardo

Bernardo Montet is currently an associate artist with the SEcW project in Morlaix and artist-in-residence at the Théâtre Louis Aragon in Tremblay-en-France. He was director of the Centre Chorégraphique National de Tours from 2003 to the end of 2011. 

After a period spent at Maurice Béjart’s Mudra school in Brussels, he pursued his career with the choreographer Catherine Diverrès, and was joint director with her of the Centre Chorégraphique National de Rennes until 1998. From 1997 onwards, Bernardo Montet gathered around himself a team of loyal collaborators: Tal Beit Halachmi, Taoufiq Izeddiou, Dimitri Tsiapkinis and Marc Veh, with whom he composed a repertoire of some twenty works. Since Pain de Singe, a founding solo devised together with the filmmaker Téo Hernandez (1987), he has signed such works as, in 1997 Issê Timossé (with the complicity of Pierre Guyotat, author and reciter), in 1998 Beau Travail (in collaboration with Claire Denis), in 2001 Racine’s Bérénice (co-written with Frédéric Fisbach), and O.More (with Gnawa musicians) in 2002. 

In Tours, he created nine pieces: Parcours 2C (vobiscum) (with the plastic artist Gilles Touyard) in 2004, Coupédécalé with Eran Tzur for the musical composition (2005), Les batraciens s’en vont (2006) and Batracien, l’après-midi (2007), two works produced together with Lorella Abenavoli for the electroacoustic creation, Apertae (2008), Switch me off (co-written with Thomas Ferrand, 2009), God needs sacrifice (2010), Isao, a solo written for and in collaboration with the Malagasy choreographer Gaby Saranouffi, and Des Hommes, a group work in collaboration with the historian and critic Geneviève Vincent in December 2011. 

In July 2011, he was made an Officier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres. 

In 2012, Bernardo Montet accompanied Madeleine Louarn for the show Les Oiseaux (from Aristophanes’ Birds), while at the same time working on a duo entitled (Des)incarnat(s), with one of the actors of the Atelier Catalyse, on the notion of Vulnerable. 

All his pieces, buoyed up by demand and radicality, deal with subjects dear to his heart: colonialism, memory, identity, consciousness of the body, resistance, to name but a few. Each choreography springs up from the previous one to weave an image that is both similar and different: the bodies, in their poetical and political dimension, replay the world surrounding us. 

Bernardo Montet also develops unusual projects with children, such as ChOral (2013), Mom’arts (2011 and 2014), and in the urban space with Pas à Pas (2013), La Marche des Anges (2007), and Veiller par le geste (2008, 2010). 

More information:

Lefebvre, Élodie

 Artist and filmmaker Élodie Lefebvre was born in Toulouse in 1974. Her mother is a Flamenco dancer and her father an architect. She discovered experimental video while studying at the Toulouse École des Beaux-Arts. Halfway between installation and moving image, her work is deeply imbued with the experience of the body. Her documentary films open up a space to share and exchange with other artists, their rapport to creation and the physical or symbolic place from which they hail. The first one, "Au coeur des sables" (2001), is set at the École des Sables, founded by Germaine Acogny. "Cassa Cassa", the second installment of their collaboration, captures one of the "danced encounters" held at the school, where the sensibility and engagement of choreographers from Africa meet those of their peers from the African diaspora. 

Source:  Élodie Lefebvre

École des sables

Germaine Acogny is a leading figure in African dance. With l’École des sables, founded in 1996 at Toubab Dialaw in Senegal, she pursues her objective; to teach the new generations of African dancers and to initiate them to contemporary dance, without discarding their traditions. For three months in 2001, Germaine Acogny and her guests, choreographers Flora Théfain (Togo), Bud Blumenthal (USA) and Bernardo Montet (France), presented their vision of choreography to thirty students from seventeen African countries.

Au coeur des sables

Artistic direction / Conception : Élodie Lefebvre

Choreography : Longa Fô / DRC – Bud Blumenthal / USA – Bernardo Montet / France – Flora Théfaine / Togo – Germaine Acogny / Senegal

Duration : 48'

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