Bending the bodies of others: Africa-Europe choreographic collaborations as intimate politics
Hélène Neveu Kringelbach
(University College London)
Paper short abstract:
In West Africa, choreographic collaborations with European artists are increasingly sought-after by contemporary choreographers. This paper suggests that collaborations across former colonial boundaries are not simply intimate and creative encounters, but also powerful political gestures.
Paper long abstract:
It is now well established that Africa was not only 'invented' through textual representations, but also through the objectification of African (and other Black) moving bodies. The legacy of this objectification remains evident in the way in which African dancer-choreographers aspiring to international careers are expected to produce work of recognizably 'African' character. This is often in tension with their frequent desire to be acknowledged as artists who happen to be African. Dancer-choreographers throughout West Africa, therefore, increasingly engage in transnational choreographic collaborations with artists from Europe and other parts of the world, a form of work they hope will foster a more egalitarian engagement with global artistic circuits. Many dancer-choreographers from Europe, for their part, seek collaborations with African performers in their search for novelty and inspiration at a reasonable cost. Drawing on funding from French state agencies in particular, collaborative choreographic projects have played a crucial role in the emergence of contemporary dance scenes across Africa, through the exchange of ideas and improvisation practices.
But what is really at stake in the intimate encounter between choreographic artists with different aspirations for their work together, and different ideas about their own place in the world?
Drawing on fieldwork in Senegal over a period of 10 years and on recent interviews with European and West African dancer-choreographers, this paper suggests that collaborative choreography across borders is not simply an encounter between individuals, but also, potentially, a powerful political gesture.
Collaborative intimacies in music and dance: anthropologies in/of sound and movement