Encoding Identities
Choreographic Encounters Nairobi
29 July – 10 August 2005

Organised by Gaaraprojects in collaboration with the Godown Arts Centre and Alliance Française in Nairobi, and focusing on choreographic development, the Nairobi encounter brings together international (mainly from Africa) choreographers and dancers.

Rather than a fly-in fly-out festival in the classic sense the encounter is a period of exchange, workshops and performances. The first edition in 2004 – Retracing Connections – hosted artists from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Congo RDC, South Africa and Madagascar, Italy and France.

For the 2005 edition – Encoding Identities - I’m working on the idea of crossing as the framework for a program of workshops, performances and exchange within which artists can work together and share with the public both existing repertoire and work in progress. In it’s current phase the encounter is particularly keen to interrogate connections of identity and performance framework in Africa as an area of choreographic development. Amongst the invited artists are Boyzie Cekwana from South Africa, Salia ni Seydou from Burkina and Rafaella Giordano from Italy.

I’m asking some of the invited choreographers, who also happen to be dancers in practically all the cases, to lead classes for younger dancers on the one hand but even more importantly, as the focus of the encounter is not dance teaching, to participate in workshops/exchange with their more experienced counterparts in the ‘performance workshop’ series.

The ‘performance workshops’ series are a platform for experienced choreographers to exchange and work together beyond the usual fleeting encounters of classic festivals. It is today recognised that contemporary choreographic creation on the continent is, in many cases, developing distinct corporeal identities. This is perhaps less evident in terms of performance modes, structures and systems of presentation such as the relationships of work, space, audience etc. As the theme of the encounter – Encoding Identities – suggests I’m proposing to willing choreographers to respond, in their chosen way, to the question of performance framework and identity. Spaces that lend themselves to alternative performance experience such as the ex-warehouse Godown Arts Centre will be made available for the performance workshop series. Part of the workshop process depending on its nature may be shared with the public. Some of the invited choreographers will also present their existing work.

Opiyo Okach