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GERMAINE ACOGNY & ALESANDRA SEUTIN
Germaine Acogny Technique
Germaine Acogny's teaching is based on her specific technique of Modern African Dance, a synthesis of Traditional Dances from West Africa (Sahel and forest area) and Contemporary Western Dances. This technique is absolutely comparable to Western techniques such as Graham’s or Limon’s. It is related to the idea that African Dances are a continuous dialogue with the Cosmos.
She works a lot with improvisation techniques. She trains the African dancers to make them discover their own way, transforming their traditional dances into contemporary expressions and forms.
In connivance with the percussionist drummers, she offers to share her universe of "body in joy" through her technique based on sensitive virtuosi. Focussing on the spine movement she considers as the snake of life or the tree of life, she works on: contractions, undulations, tremulations or vibrations.
Most of her movements are inspired by nature – plants or animals, but also by elements of daily life in Africa. They are precise and clearly defined and deeply related to breathing. The movements of Acogny’s technique are named from symbolic natural images such as: fromager tree, water lily, deer. Breathing and deep-rooting are also very important parts of the exercises. These exercises help to liberate the body, to feel it differently, to be deep-rooted on the ground and feel verticality better. The movements also contribute to enriching the dancer’s physical vocabulary.
Germaine Acogny’s classes are divided into 3 parts:
- Warming up in a circle and/or using the entire space (30 minutes)
- Approach to the different movements of her technique (30 minutes), in standing position, on the floor
- Putting the different movements into a combination, into dance (1 hour).
To the world of western dance, she suggests to open up to African dance, to its wealth, power and telluric strength as a new source of inspiration.
The dancer is not supposed to count; s/he is supposed to listen to the musician to feel the rhythm and anticipate the blockings and calls. The musician is more than an accompanying figure; helps to "open up the ear" of the dancer, inspire his/her unusual movement quality and thus contribute in developing the corporal language.
When the students have interiorised the technique and the movements, Germaine Acogny guides them through improvisations in which they use elements they learned during the class to combine them with their own dances and dance tradition. Germaine Acogny's technique helps the dancer see his/her own corporal language from a different angle, analyse it and use it in a new creative way. Her work is strongly related to Africa but at the same time opens up to the universal.
ARTISTBIO: Germaine Acogny
Germaine Acogny, Senegalese and French, participated from 1962 till 1965 at the formation at the Simon Siegel’s school (the director was Ms. Marguerite Lamotte) in Paris and received a diploma of 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 as the "mother of Contemporary African dance".
Between 1977 and 1982 she was artistic director of MUDRA AFRIQUE (Dakar), created by Maurice Béjart and the Senegalese president and poet Leopold Sedar Senghor.
In 1980, she writes her first book titled African Dance, edited in three languages.
Once Mudra Afrique had closed, she moved to Brussels to work with Maurice Béjart’s company, she organised international African dance workshops, which showed a 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.
Germaine Acogny dances, choreographs and teaches on all continents, becoming a real emissary of the African Dance and Culture. Her work and personality is highly respected in Africa and worldwide.
Together with her husband, Helmut Vogt, she sets up in 1985, the Studio-Ecole- Ballet-Théâtre du 3è Monde, in Toulouse, France.
After having been away from the stage for several years, Germaine Acogny has her comeback as a dancer and choreographer in 1987. She works with Peter Gabriel for a video clip and creates 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, 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. But already, every year since 1998, three-month professional workshops for African dancers and choreographers are organised. About 40 dancers from all over Africa met, exchanged and worked together every year.
In 1997, Germaine Acogny becomes Artistic Director of the Dance section of Afrique en Creations in Paris, a function she held until September 2000. During this time, she is responsible for the Contemporary African Dance Competition, important platform for young African choreographers.
In 2005 she is 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) 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 is 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 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 a great success during several touring in 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 newest solo creation A un endroit du début was created, a collaboration with theatre director Mikael Serre, a creation that combines dance, theatre 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, dance centres and teaches regularly master classes. Since 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 École 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.
Last update: 20.05.2021
ARTISTBIO: Alesandra Seutin
Alesandra Seutin is Ecole des Sables’ newest Artisitic Director. International performer, choreographer and teacher, Alesandra Seutin (daughter of a South African and Belgian couple) was born in Harare, Zimbabwe. She grew up in Brussels and now lives between London and Brussels. She has studied dance all over the world, in Europe, Africa, Asia and the United States. She has a degree in theatre-dance from Trinity Laban Conservatory and in choreography and performance from Middlesex University in London. She also trained at the École des Sables in Senegal, where she was a student of Germaine Acogny, who passed on her technique to her. Seutin is now an ambassador of this technique, which she teaches at the École des Sables and all over the world.
Since she founded her company Vocab Dance in 2017, Alesandra Seutin has gradually built an international reputation for her thought-provoking and visually striking creations, whether for small stages, large venues or even outside the walls. Subjects that touch on and reflect social, political and economic issues stimulate her creativity. Through movement, voice and music, she creates paintings that trigger discussions. Her recent productions include: Giant, an immersive dance and installation duo and a new group choreography, Boy Breaking Glass, which premiered at Sadler’s Wells, London in October 2018 and Dear Winnie, which has been touring the Netherlands and Belgium since 2019. Alesandra Seutin also supports young emerging dancers and choreographers and recently provided the dramaturgy and writing for the show À travers l’autre for the twins Doris and Nathalie Bokongo Nkumu, known as Les Mybalés. In 2020-21, she will also be the guest artistic director of the National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) at Sadler’s Wells.
Last update: 21.05.2021