Choreography : Opiyo Okach

Performers :
Opiyo Okach, Lailah Masiga, Peter Kariuki, James Mweu,Isaac Karanja (Kenya)

Music : Ondrej Adamek (République Tchèque), Joël Merah (France) in collaboration with Iddi Aziz and Julius Shutu, kenyan musicians.

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 -Nairobi.
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In 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 and outsiders.
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.

Abila 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 of unity.

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Technical rider
(9 minutes video real player)

The 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 towards contemporary creation processes. With the leadership of Opiyo Okach and other guest choreographers, the dancers coming from diverse fields 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 dance.
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.

Sound 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.

Abila 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.


Gàara Projects : Missions Opiyo okach Contacts Works : Shift...centre No man's gone now Abila Dilo Calender
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