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Interview de Germaine Acogny pour le Centre chorégraphique James Carlès

Interview de Germaine Acogny pour le Centre chorégraphique James Carlès

Stage d'automne 2019 au CCJC

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 :

Carlès, James

Since 2016, James Carlès has made the choice to make available to the public a selection of its videos.

Centre chorégraphique James Carlès

Two methodologies transmitted by James Carlès and recognized internationally are part of the artistic and pedagogical project of the center :

- R.E.S.E.T. : Movement techniques with multiple applications for dancers and the person: form, health, expression, creativity, physicality are the assets of this method.

- James Carlès Dance Methodology : Choreographic technique for artists and thinkers. It allows dancers to develop their awareness and mastery of movement (flow), their gesture and their infinite technical and choreographic applications.

More than 2100 students have been trained in the span of 20 years, of which :

- 40% became artists/dancers

- 10% are working in cultural administration, in distribution or production

- 40% became teachers

- 10% are working in the body and well-being professions

Stage d'automne 2019 au CCJC

Artistic direction / Conception : James Carlès

Other collaborations : Alain Gruttadauria, Angelo Monaco, Brissy Akézizi, Delphine Lemaître, Emmanuel Pi Djob, Kristina Alleyne, Layo Leyre, Marcus Jarrel Willis, Raphaël Sergio....

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