Performers : Opiyo Okach, Lailah Masiga, Peter Kariuki, James Mweu,Isaac
Music : Ondrej Adamek (République Tchèque),
Joël Merah (France) in collaboration with Iddi Aziz and Julius Shutu, kenyan
Video : Eric Angels (France)
Lighting : Chris Duplech (France)
Coproduction/support : Ballet Atlantique - Régine Chopinot,
Association Française d’Action Artistique - programme Afrique en Créations,
Fondation Ford, Ministère de la Culture - DRAC Ile de France, Unesco - Bourses
Aschberg pour la Culture, Centre National de la Danse - Paris, Maison Française
Luo dialect, Abila, the house of the patriarch, is the place for
meeting and exchanges between different generations and guests.
The new creation by Opiyo Okach is entirely based on this idea of
an encounter between dancers of various ethnic and artistic backgrounds
in Kenya. That includes traditional dancing, cabaret, theatre, etc.
Three European artists: a videast and two musicians bring their
own crossbreeding experience. They capture and integrate into the
choreography, their own sounds and movements.
This way, Opiyo Okach continues his poetic quest for a modern identity
among the dispersed elements of east-African cultures, a result
of constant changes of hundreds of Bantu, Nilotic, and Cushitic
populations, which have gone through Islam, been evangelised,
colonised, then educated, modernised, and urbanised.
The choreography, the art of the memory of the body, is an element
giving a structure between the cultures of East Africa, an entirely
aesthetic social bond, conceived to forge a feeling of belonging
to a community through the transmission of danced myths and rituals.
Almost always associated with initiation, the dance is a strong
identity builder : it has an effect on the public who takes part
fully in the performance.
Confronted to the shock of modernity, traditional choreography is
not only dying because of the lack of performers, but also because
they loose this metaphysical and identity related meaning.
Compiling knowledge and myths has increasingly to do with heritage
conservation, but the modern re-adaptation of this knowledge in
the urban world is definitely a live art, reinvented time after
time, which cannot be a simple repeat of old expressions. Opiyo
does not repeat the old traditional body language, but he tries
to keep their structure and motives, and to see them as an aesthetic
and social practice.
The city, a place where modernity thrives, has been for a long time
a new space for encounters, intercultural exchanges and a melting
pot, as much as a source of inter-ethnic conflicts and aggravation
of social differences. If tamed, these tensions can be cooled down
and become the symbol of a pacified city dedicated to encounters,
in the same way the peaceful Abila does, between generations, neighbours
As much as encounters in cities are unpredictable, improvisation
is another side of modernity in art, raised by surrealists to the
rank of full method of creation.
has a strong universal nature in its encounters : we do not have
the same mother tongue, we do not belong to the same culture, and
still we live in the same cities, we know how to explore our basic
feelings and gestures that we learnt from our fathers, then from
our masters, in our villages and later in our travels.
How do you position yourself in front of this colour and this scent
coming out of the soil ?
At the beginning, working proposals are the materials commomly used
by most of the ethnies of the area, that all have significations
in rituals of offering, initiation, passage, etc. Thus red ocher,
white chalk, calebasses, fly whip, carry lots of signifiance that
every dancer reveals by gestures he associates to.
Every performer thus become a resource person, that lies just hidden
at the corner of urban life. The answers given by each of the performers
make the base of the creation, and during the weeks of creation,
rehearsal and close work together, a common and harmonised body
language will be created to give to the overall work an illusion
Performers - East african dancers
Since its creation in 1997, Compagnie Gàara has regularly organised
encounters to give rise to new vocations in contemporary creation in the
world of art in Kenya.
Projects like the Village Market Project or Three Choreographies,
supported by the Netherlands Embassy and French Cultural Centre in Nairobi,
were the first steps of what has become a real and long term project for
the development of choreography in East Africa.
From the beginning, this initiative for training, creation and performances, Génération
2001, is supported by Ballet Atlantique/ Régine
Chopinot, the Association Française d’Action Artistique
and the French Cultural Centre in Nairobi.
The initial phase
beginning in Nairobi in 2000 resulted
in a core group of 10
performers to getting professionnally involved in working
creation processes. With the leadership of Opiyo Okach and other guest
choreographers, the dancers coming from diversefields
of the artistic scene in Kenya (traditional dance, theatre, development
theatre, cabaret, fashion, plastic arts), had, in 2001 and 2002, the
opportunity to get acquainted with the techniques and challenges of contemporary
Abila is the first outcome of this work of development, preparation and
maturation of the performers. Subsequent from the
Ford Foundation gives to the project a regional dimension (Bamagoyo festival,
for which Opiyo gathers dancers from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) and
integrate what has now become the Gaara Dance Foundation, into a new
art centre in Nairobi.
and video installation… France and Tcheque Republic
The choreographic creation integrates a spatial and sound installation
mixing video, music and scenography. It was created in collaboration with
Eric Angels, video artist, Ondrej Adamek and Joël Merah, contemporary
music composers of French and Republic Tcheque origins.
They were invited for a residency in Nairobi, within Unesco Aschberg Bursaries
Programme and worked with plasticians and traditional musiciansfrom Kenya.
on tour The piece was created in march and may 2002
in Nairobi. It was performed for the first time in the kenyan capital
before its presentation in Ballet Atlantique (La Rochelle - France) and
Centre National de la Danse (Paris) in june 2002. Abila experienced european
tours in february/march and november 2003 as well as an african tour in
may 2003 (10 countries of Est, Austral, South and Indian Ocean Africa)
with the support of Afaa within the network of the French Cultural Centre.