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Shift Centre
piece for a variable number of performers

Artistic direction :
Opiyo Okach
interview vidéo real player

: Jean-Christophe Lanquetin
Installation : Polska

Soundscore : Thomas Lucas

Video : Ingrid Mwangi

Lighting : Chris Duplech

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Shift Centre (draft) - Ramoma Art Gallery Nairobi
choreographic draft for 3 dancers
(video real player - 4,17 min) (flash)

Shift Centre - Series 1 Nairobi July 2005
choreography for 8 dancers and 2 singers
(video real player - 7 min)

Shift Centre - Series 2 Limoges September 2005
choreography for 7 dancers and 1 singer

(video real player - 8 min)

Shift Centre - Series 3, Caen/Orléans, December 2005
choreography for 4 dancerrs and 1 musician
invited artists Faustin Linyekula, Seydou Boro, Salia Sanou, Aïcha Mbarek, Hafiz Dhaou

Shift Centre - Series 4, Paris, April 2006
choreography for 6 dancers et 1 singer
artiste invité Moeketsi Koena

Shift Centre - Series 5, Joburg/Durban/Maputo, August/September 2006
choreography for 5 dancers and inviteds artists

Coproduction : Ford Foundation – Nairobi, Les Francophonies en Limousin, “Ville de Limoges - Centres culturels - Scène conventionnée pour la danse”, Centre Chorégraphique National d’Orléans dans le cadre de «l’accueil -studio» Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication

With support from
: Afrique en Créations – Afaa, Association Française d’Action Artistique – Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, The Godown Art Centre - Nairobi, L’Alliance Française de Nairobi, L’Animal l’esquena, Spain

why stick to one when there are 360° possible Zaha Hadid

Limoges Honours Dance by Ayoko Mensah
Africultures - published 24/11/05
translated from French

Resolutely experimental 'shift...centre' is situated at the crossroads of dance and performance. Based on improvisation and instant composition this piece interrogates double relations: between 'space & perception' & between 'perception & identity'. Two questions that guide the choreographic research of Opiyo Okach for a number of years.

Pluri-dimentionnality of space

In his previous creation 'Abila' (2002) he investigates through video projection the pluri-dimentionnality of space and identity. This time the Choreographer goes further. Through subtle scenographic device - thanks to the talented Jean-Christophe Lanquetin - who partitions the space with translucent and mobile screens, the approach is more radical. 'Shift Centre' unravels the habitual conventions of representation: no stage-auditorium frontiers, no line of demarcation susceptible to distinguish performers from audience, no notification of beginning or end. Instead the audience is invited to saunter freely within the immense empty hall where the five performers are scattered (four men and a woman).

'Interrogate the idea of space, call into question modes of spatial presentation where there is only one way to see, only one place of truth, is at the heart of the process of Shift', confirms the choreographer. 'How do we allow things to be perceived from different points of view and avoid formating them? To see only in one way is a tyranny of perception imposed by dominant conventions of presentation. This formats not just the public but the artist as well into a way of creating and perceiving.'


Inversely the piece proposes a fragmented and multi-directional approach to space. The dancers improvise in playing not only with proximity of panels and the intriguing sculptures in bamboo - the work of French sculptor Polska - but also with audience displacement. There is no longer a central focal point but an incalculable number of events generated simultaneously: small and big, official and semi-official, each sees what speaks to them: a dancer, the changing reflection of a body on the panel, a strange scene of unison or even the children, who quickly feel at ease in this setting, adventure off public and dance in their turn... the suggested poetry of this liberty, of this multiplication of points of view, restores the magic of the instant, of chance, of present.

Political dimension

‘Shift Centre’ constitutes thus ‘the experience of being on earth in a place here and now and the sharing of this experience’ but it’s import does not stop here. ‘The piece is not a simple esthetic declaration on the subject of space’ asserts Opiyo Okach. ‘it also evokes the political & social reality.’ It is, without doubt, by this dimension that the choreographers work finds its sense.

For several years, Okach has artistically affirmed a double credo: that of reality and multiple identity and its corollary: a certain cultural relativism called tolerance. In Africa we are in a position of being constantly exposed to a multiplicity of realities and ways of being, he explains. ‘We live daily with tradition, Islam, Christianity, MTV... it is normal to speak four languages. ( ... )
When I put on my traditionalist African, I accept reality in a certain way. With my christian hat I see differently. When in Nairobi I function differently from in the village. In Paris it’s yet another thing. We accept all these facets as valid ways of being. How is it that in the art of presentation, in our artistic practices we should suddenly abandon this experience of multiple reality?’

The artistic director of Gaaraprojects has always taken care to explore this richness of cultural mix. With successive pieces he unveils different facets of his identity: kenyan, european, urban, connections to people of his origin - the luo, this last piece does not escape the principle. As much by the origins of the artists gathered as by the diversity of artistic field (danse, music, song, video, sculpture). Okach telescopes the borders with pleasure.

In Limoges one of the strongest moments is incidentally the presence of an elderly traditional kenyan singer. Ogoya Nengo. Wearing in a long woven dress of unbleached cotton and bearing a broad collar of artisan pearls she brings herself slowly cross the space while singing; arriving within the proximity of a dancer the later modifies their gesture to the point of adopting the sketch of a step into perfect harmony. Fragile encounter, sprout of an identity at sleep.

‘Le centre of the world is not just in one place. The centre is not where we are. It is fragmented. It implies to accept reality as multiple phenomenon , always in shift, we can only experience a selection of fragments at a time, recalls the choreographer. Today global trends affirm the dominance of one centre; that there is only one way to see. The danger of a place that that believes to hold the truth, to determine what is right or wrong.’

‘why limit ourselves to one when there are 360 degrees possible.’ asks Okach citing the architect Zaha Hadid. His dance is the image of this question. It has nothing didactic, demonstrative or spectacular. Guided by instant, fluid and flexible exploration of space, up as down, reflection of breath more than certainty of result.

Shift Centre is an instant composition piece with possibilities for a variable number and configuration of performers: dancers, musicians, video artists etc. Space is approached as a fragmented multi-directional entity; without a central focal point; without any demarcation lines or special costumes distinguishing performer from audience or stage from auditorium.

Beginnings and endings remain unsignaled. Multiple, sometimes simultaneous events are located within or out of visual periphery; musical, visual and physical performance frames are extended to embrace the architectural particularities of the venue and context of the event. 'shift...centre...' is about being in a place and sharing the experience of that presence as much as it is a statement on multiple viewpoints.

Gàara Projects : Missions Opiyo okach Contacts Works : Shift...centre No man's gone now Abila Dilo Calender
www.gàaraprojects.com Tel : 33(0)870396309 Mail : opiyokach@gaaraprojects.com