“With “Beautiful Me”, Gregory Maqoma goes on an unusual solo adventure, a vehicle for conflicting gestures and words and a paradoxical identity. Co-created by three choreographers, Vincent Mantsoe of South Africa, Faustin Linyekula of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Akram Khan, kathak (Indian traditional dance) expert, this performance masters all the choreographic registers – from the refined Orient to hip-wiggling Africa. Accompanied by four musicians (violinist, cellist, percussionist, Indian zither player), this piece is the third part of a trilogy, “Beautiful”, launched in October 2005 at the CND.
What is special about this solo?
Gregory Maqoma: “Beautiful Me” deals with the notion of humanity, of “leadership” and of the struggle for power in Africa and beyond. The solo also concentrates on the relationship which I developed with the three co-creators of the piece. The roots are as much African as Indian (the Indian community is very important in South Africa). The piece is also rooted in each our beliefs.
How did everyone contribute to the piece?
G. M.: At the beginning, I had asked the choreographers to give me two minutes of their material, whether it was text or movement. But this idea proved to be insufficient because the idea was to thoroughly understand their ways of working, their choices, and commitments and to integrate their aesthetic principles.
What kind of relationship do all four of you have?
G. M.: Our relationship is deep and goes well beyond our artistic work. I grew up with Vincent Mantsoe in the Soweto township. We started to dance together in the 80s. Both of us were heavily influenced by Michael Jackson. We trained at the same time and went in different directions but never lost contact.
I met Faustin Linyekula during a tour with Mantsoe in Africa in 1996. We immediately wanted to work together. Our collaboration resulted in Tales of the Mud Wall in 2000 in Vienna.
As for Akram Khan, we met for the first time in London. Every time we met, we would talk about movement. I've also seen his work and I was able to be part of his project on Steve Reich.
All three are artists of my generation and we developed an intense relationship, which can be seen in this solo.
Which part of this solo which is most about you?
G. M.: At the beginning of the piece, it's the moment when I speak with my father. I then evoke my desire to fly and the beauty of the bird which lives in me. Right at the end, I remember my childhood and the challenge that it represented to pronounce my first name, a colonial first name. I also think of the sequence during which I talk with African leaders, dead and alive. It brings into play our relations as dancers and choreographers with the Western superpowers."
Remarks collected by Rosita Boisseau in Lettre de Kinem # 10 January - July 2008
Updating: September 2013